Mauve by Simon Garfield
How One Man Invented a Color That Changed the World

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Synopsis

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.
 

About Simon Garfield

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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.
 
Published September 4, 2000 by Faber & Faber. 256 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Science & Math, Business & Economics, History, Professional & Technical, Arts & Photography. Non-fiction

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The Perkins eventually sold their business (the Germans were dominating the market), and Perkin himself spent the rest of his life conducting private research and supporting philanthropic causes.

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The Guardian

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Mauve Simon Garfield Faber, £9.99, 222pp Buy it at BOL Madder Red Robert Chenciner Curzon, £25, 325pp Buy it at BOL Colour, A Social History Oliver Garnett National Trust, £4.99, 48pp In the easter hols of 1856, William Perkin, all of 18 and a student of the new-tech chemistry, ex...

Aug 26 2000 | Read Full Review of Mauve: How One Man Invented a...

The Guardian

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On a lighter note, Garfield finds it ironic that the first synthetic dye to be mass-produced should be purple, given the colour's historic association with power and sovereignty.

Sep 10 2000 | Read Full Review of Mauve: How One Man Invented a...

The Guardian

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Mauve Simon Garfield Faber £6.99, p224 As pigments go, mauve has a rather seedy reputation.

Sep 09 2001 | Read Full Review of Mauve: How One Man Invented a...

London Review of Books

She shows how the indigo spectrum runs from pale blue to near-black (although it is really broader than that – an Indian dye book describes colours from ‘regal purple’ to ‘light canary’, all made in Gujarat from indigo combinations).

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