Sir William Henry Perkin | Family | discovery of mauveine |

Sir William Henry Perkin

Sir William Henry Perkin was born on 12 March 1838 in London, England.  Perkin was buried in the grounds of Christchurch, Harrow, Middlesex on 14 July 1907.

He was a British chemist and entrepreneur best known for his discovery of the first synthetic organic dye. It was discovered by chance mauveine, made from aniline.

Though he unsuccessful in attempting to synthesize quinine for the treatment of malaria, he became winning within the field of dyes after his initial discovery at the age of 18.

He was the first to set up the factory to produce the dye industrially. Professor of business history at the University of Leeds, Lee Blaszczyk said that  “The foundation laid by Perkin for the synthetic organic chemicals industry, helped to revolutionize the world of fashion.

An accidental discovery of mauveine

During Easter vacation in 1856, in his apartment on the top floor of his home in Cable Street in east London Perkin performed some experiments in the crude laboratory.

Perkin made his great accidental discovery: an intense purple color can be obtained by aniline partly transformed into a crude mixture which, when extracted with alcohol.

Perkin, who had a great interest in painting and photography, at once became excited regarding this result and applied additional trials along with his friend and his brother Thomas.

Discoveries Later years

Sir William Perkin continued his research in organic chemistry for the rest of his life. Perkin discovered and marketed many synthetic dyes, including  Perkin’s Green and Britannia Violet.

Sir William Perkin
Sir William Perkin continued his research in organic chemistry for the rest of his life.

He discovered ways to make coumarin (a vanilla scented compound found in many plants, formerly used for flavoring food), one of the first synthetic raw materials of perfume, and cinnamic acid.

This reaction used to make the coumarin has become as the Perkin reaction.


Sir William Perkin married Jemima Harriet, in 1859. He has two sons, (William Henry Perkin Jr. and Arthur George Perkin).

Sir William Perkin
Sir William Perkin married Jemima Harriet

Later on, Perkin married to Alexandrine Caroline. They had four daughters and one son (Frederick Mollwo Perkin). All three sons became chemists.


Sir William Perkin died due to pneumonia 1907 and other complications resulting from a burst appendix.

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