William Perkin, British chemist

William Perkin, British chemist

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Credit: GARY BROWN/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: William Perkin (1838-1907). Caricature of the British chemist William Henry Perkin. In 1856, while still a student at the Royal College of Chemistry, Perkin accidentally produced mauveine, the first synthetic dye. He set up a factory to manufacture this and other synthetic dyes based on coal tar products. His research solved some important problems on organic acids and the synthesis of the amino acid glycine. He also developed a general synthesis of aromatic acids (the Perkin reaction) and studied magnetic rotatory power. Elected Fellow of the Royal Society (1866), he was awarded its Royal Medal (1879) and Davy Medal (1889).

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