Mauve is the beguiling story of a man who invented a colour, and in the process transformed the world around him. Before 1856, artificial colour was derived with difficulty and at enormous expense from animals, minerals or plants. But in 1856 a chemist called William Perkin found a way of making colour from coal.
Perkin found mauve by chance, at the age of 18, working on a treatment for malaria. Instead of artificial quinine he produced a dark oily sludge that, much to his surprise, turned silk a beautiful light purple. The colour was unique. It not only stormed the fashion houses of Paris and London, it earned Perkin a fortune and generated huge industries in the new science of applied chemistry. Perkin's astonishing discovery, engagingly told in Mauve , had fundamental effects on the development of explosives, perfume, photography and modern medicine - effects that colour everything we see today.
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