The color purple

Today’s Google doodle features William Henry Perkins, a British chemist and entrepreneur who accidentally discovered the first synthetic dye.  In 1856, when he was just 18 years old, Perkins was trying to synthesize quinine to treat malaria.  His experiment failed and, instead of quinine, his beakers were filled with a dirty brown sludge.  When he cleaned the beakers with alcohol, the sludge became a bright, rich purple dye that he called mauveine.  A long chain of chemical advances resulted in a bright, inexpensive synthetic color available to the masses.  Thanks to Perkins, we don’t have to smash roots and berries to have colorful clothing.