William Perkin was born in London, England on March 12, 1838. In the early years of his education, he exhibited a keen scientific mind and entered the Royal College of Chemistry in 1853 at the tender age of 15. Under the tutelage of a German chemist, August Wilhelm von Hofmann, Perkin began experimenting with the intent to synthesize quinine. At the time quinine was a substance in high demand for the treatment of malaria, which had become a common affliction due to European colonial expansion into tropical climes. Quinine was very expensive, and its synthesis was a pet project of von Hofmann.
Up until Perkin stumbled upon aniline purple, or Tyrian purple as it was originally called, all cloth had been colored using natural materials. The process to extract these substances was generally costly and very involved, for purple even more so than others. The resource in demand to produce this deep hue came from a certain sea snail called Murex. In ancient times, it was gathered in large numbers, ideally at a certain time of year, and left to decompose then processed in a long and detailed manner. Tyrian purple had ever been a color associated with royalty and wealth, because it was so expensive and labor intensive to produce. By the year 1859, Perkin’s new synthetic dye, then called mauve and later renamed mauveine by chemists, revolutionized the textile industry.
Besides, purple is such a pretty color! Mauve became quite the rage a few years later in 1862 when Queen Victoria—whose impeccable good taste dictated the direction of English fashion during her reign—wore a silk gown dyed with mauveine to an official function. This event along with all of Perkin’s hard work early on—his efforts to raise funds, build a factory, manufacture the dye, and give technical advice to others in the field—made him a very popular figure in the now booming industry of textiles. He became an even bigger influence when he devised a way to adapt the color for cotton, which in turn had a favorable effect on stimulating European economy.
Perkin continued to make an impact in other areas of chemistry that had practical applications in the ever-popular field of beauty products. He researched and developed many other dyes in various colors. He discovered a way to synthesize a sweet smelling compound called coumarin, one of the first manmade substances to be used in perfumes. The chemical process that produced the stuff was even named the Perkin reaction. And he usually found a way to manufacture his products more efficiently than similar ones and thus more economically. Soon the science he had helped to champion became too competitive for him, and in 1874 Perkin sold the factory he had built from the ground up. Needless to say, by then he was a very rich man and free to follow his own pursuits. So, he devoted the rest of his life to his true love: research.
He left pure chemistry behind and began to explore in the related field of electrochemistry, eventually moving deeper into the physical science of electromagnetism. He was equally brilliant and successful in his new area of study. Where other renowned names in the business, Gladstone and Bruhl to name two, were busy with the principles of dispersion and refraction, Perkin occupied himself with the property of chemicals to rotate a plane of polarized light, basically the precursor to of the study of molecules, which in turn paved the way for the likes of Albert Einstein.
This subject kept Perkin busy until the time of his death in 1907. By then he had amassed many awards and honors. In 1866 he was put forth as a Fellow of the Royal Society. In 1879, he was awarded their Royal Medal and ten years later a Davy Medal.In 1906 he was knighted and honored with the first Perkin Medal. It is the highest tribute in American industrial chemistry, originally established to celebrate his development of mauveine, the accidental discovery that started it all.
Ginger Myrick was born and raised in Southern California. She is a self-described wife, mother, animal lover, and avid reader and knitter. Along with the promotion for THE WELSH HEALER, and EL REY, she is currently crafting her third novel, which takes place during the U.S. Civil War. She is a Christian who writes meticulously researched historical fiction with a ‘clean’ love story at the core. She hopes to persevere with her newfound talent and show the reading community that a romance need not include graphic details to convey deep love and passion.