How one man invented a colour that changed the world

Simon Garfield

Mauve by Simon Garfield (Paperback ISBN 9781786892782) book cover

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The strange and wonderful story of how one colour changed the world, from the bestselling author of Just My Type and On the Map

1856. Eighteen-year-old chemistry student William Perkin’s experiment has gone horribly wrong. But the deep brown sludge his botched project has produced has an unexpected power: the power to dye everything it touches a brilliant purple. Perkin has discovered mauve, the world’s first synthetic dye, bridging a gap between pure chemistry and industry which will change the world forever.From the fetching ribbons tying back the hair of every fashionable head in London to the laboratories in which scientists developed modern vaccines against cancer and malaria, Simon Garfield tells the story of how the colour purple became a sensation.

“A book about science which also happens to be a miniature work of art”
daily Telegraph

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“Intriguing and elegant”

“Thoroughly researched and beautifully written”
new Scientist

“By bringing Perkin into the open and documenting his life and work, Garfield has done a service to history”
chicago Tribune

“Simon Garfield’s history of the synthetic dye industry mixes chemistry and social history into quite a colourful tale”

Simon Garfield

Simon Garfield is the author of seventeen acclaimed books of non-fiction including A Notable Woman (as editor), To the Letter, On the Map, Just My Type and Mauve. His study of AIDS in Britain, The End of Innocence, won the Somerset Maugham Award.

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