As an English chemist, Sir William Henry Perkins managed to distinguish himself in a number of different ways. That includes his discover of the dye known as Mauveine, in 1856. This was the first aniline dye. This was an accidental discovery that came about while he was trying to synthesize quinine for malaria treatment. When he discovered that quinine also dyed silk, he conducted further research into this area. The result was a purple dye that was able to withstand light exposure and light washings. This was produced with various ingredients, including an extract from mollusks. The color was called Tyrian purple, which was a symbol of the aristocracy and royalty at the time, ensuring that it was in high demand.
In addition to the very important discovery of Mauveine, Sir William Henry Perkin also had an illustrious career through research projects that he conducted on a wide variety of other subjects. He created synthetic perfumes, as well as other synthetic dyes that included vivid greens and purples. Perkin was always in search of the most efficient ways to create synthetic dyes for the clothing industry.
His career continued throughout the latter half of the 1800's, as Sir William Henry Perkin worked on new ways to further refine the dye production using natural botanicals as the base for his experiments. That includes the use of madder root, purpurin, and alizarin. These created rich reds and blues. German chemical factories started to compete heavily with the English chemical industry in the later years of his career, however, and eventually he sold his factory to retire. However, Perkin retired with no shortage of money from his success in the manufacturing industry, along with an extremely high level of prestige that was bestowed upon him by the industry.
For his dedication to his chemical craft, Sir William Henry Perkin was the recipient of a high number of awards. He was made a knight by the queen in 1906, and also was given the very first Perkin Medal. This was a special award named in his honor, in order to honor his service in creating Mauveine. This medal remains to this day as an award that is given out for excellence in the industrial chemistry industry, and the recipients are chosen by the Society of Chemical Industry. Other awards that were bestowed upon Perkin include the Royal Society's Royal Medal, and the same society's Davy Medal.