March 12 (UPI) -- Google is celebrating what would have been the 180th birthday of chemist Sir William Henry Perkin who discovered the first synthetic dye.
Perkin was an 18-year-old lab assistant when he accidentally discovered purple dye mauveine while cleaning out a beaker from a failed experiment. He noticed that a dark muck substance from the beaker left a purple stain when diluted with alcohol.
He then focused on patenting and manufacturing mauveine during a period when purple clothing was in style. Google's homepage features artwork depicting Perkin standing in front of a line of people as he adds color to their clothing.
"Perkin's timing was remarkable as the textile industry was at a high. Purple clothing was very much in style, but prohibitively expensive for most, not to mention quick to fade. Perkin's strong and inexpensively produced mauveine finally made this once-exclusive color readily accessible, igniting a violet fashion frenzy," Google said of Perkin and his discovery. "Even Queen Victoria herself wore a mauveine-dyed gown to the Royal Exhibition of 1862."
The chemist became wealthy and successful and was able to return to laboratory research. He was knighted in 1906 to mark the 50th anniversary of his discovery.