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WH Perkin, Patent AD 1856 No 1984: a review on authentic mauveine and related compounds

Posted on 12. March, 2018.

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Prior to 1856, the year in which Perkin patented mauveine, dyestuffs were usually prepared from plant, animal or mineral sources. For example, the red dye alizarin came from the root of the madder plant, indigo came from the cotton plant and Tyrian purple came from certain shellfish. From 1856 many patents appear on dyes made by chemical synthesis, of which mauveine was the first to be commercialised. This mauveine patent marks the beginning of the coal-tar dye industry which spread rapidly through Britain, France, Germany and Switzerland. It has had numerous celebrations and reviews.

Perkin oxidised aniline in sulfuric acid with potassium dichromate and obtained the purple dye, mauveine. The aniline, however, came from coal tar and was a mixture of aniline, o-toluidine and p-toluidine, and his product was not a single compound but a mixture of compounds with a common polycyclic chromophore substituted with methyl groups at various positions. This raises the question, what was the precise constitution of Perkin’s mauveine and can his preparation be reproduced? The author's own activities in this field are summarised in this review.

Read the full article, free, in Journal of Chemical Research, Volume 39, Number 5, May 2015, pp. 251-259.


Author: M. John Plater
Department of Chemistry, University of Aberdeen, Meston Walk, Aberdeen AB24 3UE, UK

Keywords: mauve, mauveine, tert-butyl-p-toluidine, coal-tar dye, trimethylcarbinol