Perkin, Sir William Henry (FRS) 1838 - 1907


Sir William Henry Perkin was born on 12 March 1838 in Shadwell, London. In 1851 he was sent to the City of London School, and in 1853 he entered the Royal College of Chemistry as a student under August Wilhelm Hofmann.

In 1856 Perkin attempted, to synthesize quinine by oxidizing a salt of allyltoluidine with potassium dichromate. The experiment failed. On repeating the method with aniline instead of the toluidine derivative, he obtained on a purple-coloured solution which was the first aniline or coal-tar dye to be discovered. Perkin filed a patent for this process in 1856.

He then resigned his position at the Royal College of Chemistry and in 1858 opened a chemical factory at Greenford Green, London. Perkin's discovery and manufacture of the first aniline dye eventually led to the displacement of natural by artificial dyestuffs, also made from various coal-tar products.

He was knighted in 1906 and died at his home in Sudbury on 14 July 1907.