Thursday, January 2, 2014
Title: Mauve: how one man invented a color that changed the world
By: Simon Garfield
Has anyone heard of William Perkin and mauve? We have heard of tulipmania, but what of color mania? In 1858, Empress Eugenie, the single most influential woman in the world of fashion, decided that mauve was a color that matched her eyes.The extent of mauve mania was documented well in all the news of the day...."purple hands threaten each other from opposite sides of the street; purple-striped gowns cram barouches, jam up cabs, throng steamers, fill railway stations; all flying country ward, like so many migrating birds of purple paradise."
Perkin had created mauve, the first artificial aniline dye from coal, in 1856. At the time this was a worthy and much appreciated achievement, but his future scientific work with dyes was even more important to humankind. His efforts led to pioneering work in immunology and chemotherapy as well as groundbreaking advances in the relief of pain in cancer patients. It also led to nonflammable pajamas for children.
Perkin was very successful, touted and wealthy in his lifetime. Today, his grave lies in obscurity, but his work and the discoveries from his work have packed a wallop in our lives.
Garfield tells a lively story filled with facts and picturesque anecdotes. A worthy read along with his other writings about fonts, maps, and stamps.
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