Mauve is the beguiling story of a man who invented a colour, and in the process transformed the world around him. Before 1856, artificial colour was derived with difficulty and at enormous expense from animals, minerals or plants. But in 1856 a chemist called William Perkin found a way of making colour from coal. Perkin found mauve by chance, at the age of 18, working on a treatment for malaria. Instead of artificial quinine he produced a dark oily sludge that, much to his surprise, turned silk a beautiful light purple. The colour was unique. It not only stormed the fashion houses of Paris and London, it earned Perkin a fortune and generated huge industries in the new science of applied chemistry. Perkin's astonishing discovery, engagingly told in Mauve, had fundamental effects on the development of explosives, perfume, photography and modern medicine - effects that colour everything we see today.
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