The invention of mauveine.

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Mauveine was the first synthetic dye to have been invented.


It was invented by accident in 1856 by the English chemist William Henry Perkin when he was trying to synthesise quinine and noticed a purple colour in a black precipitate.

His patent[1] for the invention details the method he used in creating mauveine:

  • He created a mixture of any two of the following cold sulphate solutions: toluidine, aniline, xylidine or cumidine. He also added a cold solution of a soluble bichromate in order to convert the sulphuric acids in any of the solutions to sulphates.
  • Once the two main solutions were mixed, he let them stand for 10-12 hours until a black precipitate formed. He then filtered the precipitate out and washed it with water to remove the sulphates.
  • Then, he dried the precipitate at 100 degrees Celsius and used coal-tar naphtha to extract a brown substance which was not the dye.
  • Then, he evaporated the naphtha from the precipitate and used a methylated spirit to dissolve the dye. The solution with the dissolved dye was then distilled at 100 degrees Celsius in order to extract the dye.

Here is a photograph of mauveine powder:

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Here is a photograph[2] of William Henry Perkin:

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