William Henry Perkin

William Henry Perkin ( born March 12, 1838 in London, † July 14, 1907 in Sudbury ) was a British chemist and industrialist. Perkin discovered the first synthetic dye, the Mauvein. He founded an important dye company, remained at the same time researchers. He developed syntheses for the preparation of cinnamic acid and coumarin.

Life and work

Perkin was the son of a master builder. After attending a private school Perkin went to the City of London School. As a student, the young Perkin constructed steam engines, with 12-13 years began his interest in chemistry. At age 15 (1853 ) Perkin became a student at the Royal College of Chemistry under the direction of August Wilhelm von Hofmann after intercession of his teacher Thomas Hall. Perkin completed the training course of the qualitative, quantitative, gas analytical studies quickly and started in the second year own experimental studies. Only 17 years old Perkin was titular assistant at Hofmann. Perkin examined the anthracene and explored the nitration and reduction of aromatic nitro compounds. From oxidation of anthracene Perkin received the anthraquinone. Furthermore, Perkin examined the effects of cyanogen chloride on naphthylamine. Perkin made ​​a mental note now to represent the quinine synthetically. According to the empirical formula he had to introduce oxygen into the allyltoluidine to obtain quinine. In the oxidation Perkin discovered mauve dye. With 18 years Perkin secured his invention by a patent (Patent No 1984 26 August 1856) and founded a chemical factory in Greenford Green, near Sudbury. In 1857 was the new factory building and the dye Mauvein came a little later under the name Aniline Purple and Tyrian Purple in the trade. First, the Mauvein was only used for dyeing silk, later to dye cotton. Soon new tar dyes were put on the market by other explorers.

Perkin had set up at the factory building also has a small laboratory where he conducted research on the fields of organic chemistry. 1858 Perkin discovered the production of amino acetic acid from bromoacetic acid and ammonia. 1867 Perkin examined the reaction of acetic anhydride to aromatic aldehydes. He received unsaturated aromatic acids, this important reaction in organic chemistry, is known under the name Perkinsche reaction. Shortly afterwards he received from salicylic acid, benzaldehyde with acetic anhydride, the coumarin and cinnamic acid. Coumarin was the first major perfume Steinkohleteers, cinnamic acid was the principal raw material for the first synthesis of indigo.

After Graebe and Liebermann Perkin also announced a little later for a patent for the manufacture of alizarin from anthracene. In particular, the production of alizarin from anthraquinone disulfonic acid is simultaneously by Graebe, Liebermann ( Patent 1936 25 June 1869) and Perkin (patent 1948, June 26, 1869) has been logged. In 1870, Perkin -produced factory in Greenford 40 tons of alizarin, in 1871 there were already 220 tons. Perkins factory was in 1870 the first chemical factory that produced synthetic alizarin. In 1874, Perkin sold his factory and retired from the business activity.

Later he investigated the magnetic behavior of materials.


Perkin was a member of the Royal Society, from 1879 to 1881 and from 1892 to 1894 he was on the board of the Royal Society since 1866. He has also been since 1856 a member of the Chemical Society, 1861-1862 and 1868-1869 he was its Executive Board, from 1869 to 1883 he was secretary and 1883-1885 President. Perkin was 1884-1885 president of the Society of Chemical Industries, President of the Society of Dyers and Colourists, President of the Faraday Society.


He discovered in 1856 the first synthetic organic dye, the Mauvein (Perkin- violet, aniline purple ), more random and earned a lot of money. He wanted to synthesize quinine, in the oxidation of aniline with potassium dichromate, the dye perfectly suitable for the dyeing of textiles, such as Perkin found out quickly arose.

Perkin -founded an aniline dye factory, marketed other dyes such as Britannia - violet, Perkin- green and developed around 1868 known as the Perkin reaction for the production of unsaturated organic acids by condensation of aldehydes with sodium salts of carboxylic acids under the influence of acid anhydrides.

According to him, the Perkin Medal of the Society of Chemical Industry has named its first winner he was.