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Discovery

BBC World Service

Science & Medicine

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Science & Medicine 32

Explorations in the world of science.

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The Colour Purple

July 27th, 2015

Episode 488 of 565 episodes

In 1856, a teenager experimenting at home accidentally made a colour that was more gaudy and garish than anything that had gone before. William Perkin was messing about at home, trying to make the anti-malarial Quinine - but his experiment went wrong. Instead he made a purple dye that took Victorian London by storm. Philip Ball tells the story of this famous stroke of serendipity. Laurence Llewelyn- Bowen describes the fashion sensation that ensued and chemist, Andrea Sella tells how Perkin's purple prompted the creation of much more than colourful crinolines. (Photo: William Henry Perkin (1838-1907), British chemist. Credit: Science Photo Library)

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