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Google Doodle: Sir William Henry Perkin

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The Google landing page had a 19th century twist on Monday, showcasing a very violet doodle in celebration of what would have been scientist Sir William Henry Perkin’s 180th birthday.

At only 18, Perkin made an impressive accidental discovery: the first synthetic dye, according to Forbes.

While working as a research assistant in 1856, Perkin was attempting to create quinine, then a popular treatment for malaria. At the time, according to Forbes, quinine was accessible only by extracting it from a cinchona tree.

Toiling away in his home lab, Perkin noticed that one of his failed experiments resulted in something unique: a purple-colored solution left when the solid substance was mixed with alcohol, according to the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Realizing his find, Perkin patented the dye as mauveine — the first of its kind, as previous solutions for coloring fabric were made of only natural materials, according to the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Mauveine was cheaper and faster than the natural product alternatives, Forbes reported, making it an instant hit.

In addition to mauveine, Vox reported that Perkin also invented other shades of dye including Perkin’s green (a turquoise shade), Britannia violet (another shade of purple), and alizarin crimson.

Perkin passed away on July 14, 1907, but his legacy lives on today with the Perkin Medal — a prestigious award given annually to a chemist whose work has significantly influenced commercial or household application, according to SCI America.

Prominent winners include Carl Djerassi — who helped develop the first oral contraceptives — and the most recent awardee, Ann E. Weber. Weber is a former Merck scientist known for her work in pharmaceuticals.

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