Born of a laboratory accident, this odd shade of purple revolutionized fashion, industry, and the practice of science. Before 1856, the color in our lives--the reds, blues, and blacks of clothing, paint, and print--came from insects or mollusks, roots or leaves; and dyeing was painstaking and expensive. But in 1856 eighteen-year-old English chemist William Perkin accidentally discovered a way to mass-produce color in a factory. Working on a treatment for malaria in his London home laboratory, Perkin failed to produce artificial quinine. Instead he created a dark oily sludge that turned silk a beautiful light purple. Mauve became the most desirable shade in the fashion houses of Paris and London, but its importance extended far beyond ball gowns. It sparked new interest in industrial applications of chemistry research, which later brought about the development of explosives, perfume, photography, and modern medicine. With great wit, scientific savvy, and historical scope, Simon Garfield delivers a fascinating tale of how an accidental genius set in motion an extraordinary scientific achievement.
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In 1856, while trying to synthesize artificial quinine, 18-year-old chemistry student William Perkin instead produced a murky residue. Fifty years later, he described the event: he "was about to throw a certain residue away when I thought it might be interesting. The solution of it resulted in a strangely beautiful color." Perkin had stumbled across the world's first aniline dye, a color that became known as mauve.
"So what?" you might say. "A teenager invented a new color." As Simon Garfield admirably points out in Mauve, the color really did change the world. Before Perkin's discovery all the dyes and paints were colored by roots, leaves, insects, or, in the case of purple, mollusks. As a result, colors were inconsistent and unpredictably strong, often fading or washing out. Perkin found a dye that would always produce a uniform shade--and he pointed the way to other synthetic colors, thus revolutionizing the world of both dyemaking and fashion. Mauve became all the rage. Queen Victoria wore it to her daughter's wedding in 1858, and the highly influential Empress Eugénie decided the color matched her eyes. Soon, the streets of London erupted in what one wag called the "mauve measles."
Mauve had a much wider impact as well. By finding a commercial use for his discovery--much to the dismay of his teacher, the great August Hofmann, who believed there needed to be a separation between "pure" and "applied" science--Perkin inspired others to follow in his footsteps: "Ten years after Perkin's discovery of mauve, organic chemistry was perceived as being exciting, profitable, and of great practical use." The influx of bright young men all hoping to earn their fortunes through industrial applications of chemistry later brought significant advances in the fields of medicine, perfume, photography, and even explosives. Through it all, Garfield tells his story in clever, witty prose, turning this odd little tale into a very entertaining read. --Sunny DelaneyAbout the Author:
Simon Garfield is the author of several acclaimed books, including The End of the Innocence: Britain in the Time of AIDS, winner of the Somerset Maugham Award. He lives in London.
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Descripción W. W. Norton & Company, New York, 2001. Hardcover. Estado de conservación: New. Estado de la sobrecubierta: New. 1st US edition. First US edition 2001, first printing, number line starts with 1. Hardcover with DJ. Condition new, square tight and crisp book, no edgewear, no markings of any kind, no names no underlinings no highlights no bent pages, Not a reminder. DJ new, bright and shiny, no tears no chips no edgewear, Price Not clipped. 8vo, 222 pages, bibliography, index. Nº de ref. de la librería 013486
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