Main content

How Perkin brought purple to the people

Philip Ball tells how the young experimenter William Perkin brought purple to the people in Victorian London, leading to more than just colourful crinolines.

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.

Producer: Anna Buckley.

Available now

28 minutes

Broadcast

Podcast