Geek Trivia

The First Synthetic Dye Was Discovered By A Chemist Searching For What?

A Cure For Malaria
Clear Plastics
Cheap Paint Pigment
Access To The Indigo Market
By Law No U.S. Military Officer Can Outrank Which Historical Figure?

Answer: A Cure For Malaria

Some of the more interesting discovers in the annals of science are happenstance accidents. The first synthesis of LSD and the discovery of Teflon coating, for example, are two of the more famous laboratory experiments gone wrong that changed the world.

In that same vein, the experiments of a young and brilliant chemist, William Perkin, results in the world’s first synthetic dye. Admitted to the Royal College of Chemistry at a mere fifteen years of age, it was during the spring recess of his third year at the college that he stumbled upon the first synthetic dye.

Holed up in his bedroom over the break, he was working intently on creating a synthetic version of quinine–the natural and very expensive active ingredient in anti-malarial treatments of the day. In the course of his experiments, he instead discovered that the organic compound Aniline could be blended with alcohol to create an intensely purple dye.

Perkin continued to refine the dye, naming it Mauveine, and went on to industrialize the process. Perkin and his brother went on to become substantially wealthy as Perkin’s discovery of the dye, the rising expense of natural purple dyes, and the fact that Aniline was an abundant by product of refining coal tar, all serendipitously overlapped in such a fashion as to bring Mauveine into the market with a roar.