Mauve: How One Man Invented a Color That Changed the World

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9780393323139: Mauve: How One Man Invented a Color That Changed the World
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Paperback. Pub Date: 2002. Pages: 242 in Publisher: WW Norton & Co. In 1856 eighteen-year-old English chemist William a Perkin accidentally discovered a way to mass-produce color In a witty. erudite. and entertaining (Esquire) style. Simon Garfield explains how the experimental mishap that produced an odd shade of purple revolutionized fashion. as well as industrial applications of chemistry research. Occasionally honored in certain colleges and chemistry clubs. Perkin until now has been a forgotten man. By inging Perkin into the open and documenting his life and work. Garfield has done a service to history.-Chicago Tribune [A] n inviting cocktail of Perkin biography. account of the dye industry and where it led. and social and cultural history up to the present. -American Scientist Garfield leaps gracefully back and forth in time. as comfortable in the Victorian past as he ...

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Mauve? Not the butchest of colours perhaps; you might be forgiven for wondering whether, if a Longitude-style book had to be written about hues, Red, Blue or Yellow might not be the place to start instead. But Garfield has chosen his colour well: mauve and its 19th-century inventor William Perkin constitute a fascinating story. This book convincingly argues that Perkin's invention of this chemical dye became a major turning point in the history of Western science and industry. Purple had always been a royal colour, in part because it was so difficult (and hence expensive) to achieve a good shade out of the animal, mineral or plant raw materials from which all dyes were derived; it took 17,000 dried and crushed cactus insects to make one ounce of cochineal. Perkin found a cheap way to produce a synthetic purple; he made a fortune and prompted a craze for the colour in the fashion industry of his day. But more than this, Garfield argues, he kick-started chemistry from being a gentleman-amateur pastime into becoming the major world industry it is today. Mauve (the Victorians pronounced it "morv", apparently) really did change the world. Just as Perkins's colour was something wholly new, Garfield's Mauve represents a new sort of book, a more varied synthesis than the run-of-the-mill animal, mineral or plant books. In part it is a biography, in part a social and cultural history, and partly it is a meditation on the roles chemistry (and colour) play in our world. It even manages to function as a primer in inorganic chemistry. Garfield achieves this last without being either baffling or condescending; he breaks us in gently to the subject of, for instance, benzene rings by relating Friedrich Kekule's 1858 dream, dozing in front of the fire, "gambolling atoms in snake-like motion, one of the snakes had seized hold of its own tail: his benzene structure consisted of six carbon atoms, each attached to a hydrogen atom C6H6". The model for this integration of chemistry into everyday life is taken from the period itself--at one point we're told that "William Perkins Jnr wrote again, enquiring about the atomic structures of various synthetic perfumes and wishing his father a happy birthday". Presumably in that order. Garfield's book draws you into this world of dyes and dyers; the reader emerges a little mauver than when they started. --Adam Roberts

Review:

'This remarkable book about how the colour was discovered opened my eyes... Garfield's study is far more than a social history of fashion. It is a book about science which also happens to be a miniature work of art.' Daily Telegraph

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9780571209170: Mauve: How One Man Invented a Colour That Changed the World

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ISBN 10:  0571209173 ISBN 13:  9780571209170
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Book Description WW Norton & Co, United States, 2002. Paperback. Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English. Brand new Book. In 1856 eighteen-year-old English chemist William Perkin accidentally discovered a way to mass-produce color. In a "witty, erudite, and entertaining" (Esquire) style, Simon Garfield explains how the experimental mishap that produced an odd shade of purple revolutionized fashion, as well as industrial applications of chemistry research. Occasionally honored in certain colleges and chemistry clubs, Perkin until now has been a forgotten man. "By bringing Perkin into the open and documenting his life and work, Garfield has done a service to history."-Chicago Tribune "[A]n inviting cocktail of Perkin biography, account of the dye industry and where it led, and social and cultural history up to the present."-American Scientist "Garfield leaps gracefully back and forth in time, as comfortable in the Victorian past as he is in the brave new world of petrochemicals and biochemistry."-Kirkus Reviews starred review. "[T]he delight of this book is seeing parallels to present-day trends."-"New York Times Book Review. Seller Inventory # AAC9780393323139

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Book Description WW Norton & Co, United States, 2002. Paperback. Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English. Brand new Book. In 1856 eighteen-year-old English chemist William Perkin accidentally discovered a way to mass-produce color. In a "witty, erudite, and entertaining" (Esquire) style, Simon Garfield explains how the experimental mishap that produced an odd shade of purple revolutionized fashion, as well as industrial applications of chemistry research. Occasionally honored in certain colleges and chemistry clubs, Perkin until now has been a forgotten man. "By bringing Perkin into the open and documenting his life and work, Garfield has done a service to history."-Chicago Tribune "[A]n inviting cocktail of Perkin biography, account of the dye industry and where it led, and social and cultural history up to the present."-American Scientist "Garfield leaps gracefully back and forth in time, as comfortable in the Victorian past as he is in the brave new world of petrochemicals and biochemistry."-Kirkus Reviews starred review. "[T]he delight of this book is seeing parallels to present-day trends."-"New York Times Book Review. Seller Inventory # BZV9780393323139

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