Sir William Henry Perkin Google Doodle: 8 Facts About Father of Synthetic Dyes

Until the mid-1800s, purple clothing was difficult to come by and limited to those who could afford the expensive fabrics. That is, until Sir William Henry Perkin accidentally discovered aniline dyes, the most famous of which is mauveine.

The chemist was honored Monday with a Google Doodle on the homepage of the search engine; the doodle celebrated his 180th birthday. The chemist was only 18 years old when he discovered the dyeing process that brought purple clothing to the masses.

Purple clothing was in style at the time of Perkin's synthetic dye discovery in 1856, which changed the world of fashion. The dye offered what natural dyes couldn't: It was available in abundance because it was manufactured, and it didn't fade the way natural dyes did.

Google's Doodle features Perkin dressed in shades of purple and standing in front of a crowd of people wearing similarly vivid colors. The letters of the word "Google" trail through the crowd almost like a ribbon. The illustration was created by Sonny Ross, an artist based in the United Kingdom, according to Google.

sir william henry perkin
Google honored Sir William Henry Perkin, the chemist who invented the first purple synthetic dye, on his 180th birthday Monday with a Doodle. Google

Facts about Sir William Henry Perkin and his dyes:

After decades dedicated to manufacturing and working on dyes, Perkin went back to research after he sold his factory in 1874.

Perkin was knighted in 1906, an honor for achievement awarded by the British Empire (that's why there is a "Sir" before his name).

In 1862, Queen Victoria wore a gown that was dyed using mauveine to the Royal Exhibition.

Perkin had been trying to find a synthetic treatment for malaria when he accidentally discovered the dye.

The chemical dye had many names, including Tyrian purple and aniline purple, in addition to mauveine and finally just mauve.

Perkin also discovered the process by which synthetic perfumes could be made.

Aniline red, aniline black and aniline magenta were colors Perkin went on to discover and patent through his research.

The dyes were used in more than just clothing: They also were used in the medical research industry, to identify anthrax and tuberculosis on microbial and bacterial levels.