Mauve has a remarkable story that ties together an accident in chemistry, artistic dreams, high fashion, Oscar Wilde, an Empress and a British Queen.
The colour mauve was born from the ambition, curiosity and dreams of a teenager named William Henry Perkin. William was trying to synthesize quinine from coal tar at the direction of his tutor at the Royal College of Chemistry (now Imperial College London), the renowned chemist August Wilhelm von Hofmann. Quinine was valuable because it was the only treatment for malaria, but it was very expensive therefore Hofmann was looking for a synthetic quinine. Unfortunately, William failed in this endeavour but, luckily, he had originally dreamed of being an artist. As a result, he was fascinated when he noticed, when wiping out the black residue from his latest failure to produce quinine in his beaker, that his cloth turned purple. He quickly suspected that he had inadvertently made a wash-proof purple dye.

read full article