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Mauve: How One Man Invented a Color That Changed the World Paperback – May 17, 2002
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"So what?" you might say. "A teenager invented a new color." As Simon Garfield admirably points out in Mauve, the color really did change the world. Before Perkin's discovery all the dyes and paints were colored by roots, leaves, insects, or, in the case of purple, mollusks. As a result, colors were inconsistent and unpredictably strong, often fading or washing out. Perkin found a dye that would always produce a uniform shade--and he pointed the way to other synthetic colors, thus revolutionizing the world of both dyemaking and fashion. Mauve became all the rage. Queen Victoria wore it to her daughter's wedding in 1858, and the highly influential Empress Eugénie decided the color matched her eyes. Soon, the streets of London erupted in what one wag called the "mauve measles."
Mauve had a much wider impact as well. By finding a commercial use for his discovery--much to the dismay of his teacher, the great August Hofmann, who believed there needed to be a separation between "pure" and "applied" science--Perkin inspired others to follow in his footsteps: "Ten years after Perkin's discovery of mauve, organic chemistry was perceived as being exciting, profitable, and of great practical use." The influx of bright young men all hoping to earn their fortunes through industrial applications of chemistry later brought significant advances in the fields of medicine, perfume, photography, and even explosives. Through it all, Garfield tells his story in clever, witty prose, turning this odd little tale into a very entertaining read. --Sunny Delaney --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
A diferent kind of reader might have been annoyed at the depth of detail, much of it trivia. I gobbled it up, though.
Mauve was really the first artificial dye to be made, and became the toast of London and Paris once the Empress Eugenie found that it suited her crinolines like nothing else. After mauve, any artificial dye was possible, and the world really did change. Even if it isn't your color of choice, I recommended this book as a very interesting read.
(By the way, I'm not Pat Barker the British author!)
Perkin's revolution was to use coal tar derivatives, which had been regarded as useless waste products, to make the first of the aniline dyes; textile dyes before Perkin's day came from "natural sources," and were expensive, unreliable, and subject to fading. Perkin was only eighteen years old when he was tinkering with chemicals, trying to make the antimalarial drug quinine artificially. Perkin was looking for the colorless quinine, but instead produced a reddish powder. It would perhaps have been a sensible decision to scrap what he was working on and try again, but Perkin possessed an admirable curiosity, and further purified the powder to discover the prettiest purple dye anyone had ever seen. Chemists made new colors all the time, so his fellows were horrified that he planned to abandon academic chemistry to go into business, but he decided to go with his entrepreneurial instincts. Garfield describes the grueling duties of the young man trying to make it in a commercial world about which he initially knew little. But mauve took off, becoming the fashionable color, and Perkin's fortune was secure.
Perkin was a modest man, whom Garfield obviously admires.Read more ›
I found the first few chapters of this book the most interesting. I felt Garfield had a good story - showing Perkins role, his experiments, the difficulty finding someone to use the process, the expense of doing it and the competition from people also discovering the process. These first few chapters in themselves made the book worth the purchase, for me anyway.
Unfortunately after that I found my attention wandered about. For some reason which I don't quite understand, Garfield started mixing up things by putting stuff on modern use of dyes, and quotes on Mauve all around the place. This really didn't work for me at all. I found it plain distracting actually. Also I don't think Garfield has quite the talent and touch of really good historical writers such as Dava Sobel (Longitude) and Giles Milton (Big Chief Elizabeth) and I think that may have also contributed to my losing attention later on.
This book certainly has a place for those of you who enjoy reading about these small but essential bits of history which are all but forgotten in the modern age. The story is a very good one indeed. I just think it would have been much more gripping as a purely chronological history.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Really interesting book about a little known subject and the start of an industry!Published 17 days ago by Nancy Hunter
SO GOOD! great for those interested in chemistry, history, or textiles.Published 2 months ago by Loggans Regan
A nice transition from vegetable and animal dyes to the advent of chemical dyes. This follows an interest created by the book called the "Perfect Red" which is about... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Martha Jones
This was a gift for my mom and she RAVED about this book. She's a big fan of stories that include a mix of social and cultural history told in a compelling way. It was a big hit. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Katharine A. Owens