In the year 1800s, purple color was used to be a sign of wealth, richness & being elite. Only people of royal families were the ones who wore purple-coloured clothes, common people were abolished and even punished if they even dared to wear purple-coloured clothes. Queen Elizabeth I passed orders saying that only close members of royal families can wear purple. Hence, there was a huge discrimination between the common families and the royal families.
This was because, at that time purple dye was extracted from sea snails and there was no other natural resource for extraction of purple dye. These sea snails have special glands called hypobranchial glands for production ink and mucous. The shell of these sea snails was broken and these special glands were taken out and oxidized to produced purple. The dye obtained after killing so many sea snails was really less comparatively and the whole process may sound easy but was really exhaustive also, there was an awful smell produced when all these procedures were conducted in real. All these things added up making purple dye an expensive commodity like gold and diamond today.
The second part of this story takes place when in the year 1860s there was a wide spread of malaria in the Britain and to treat malaria quinine was needed. Quinine at that time was only grown in South Africa and the British Government had to spend a lot of their asset to buy and transport quinine from South Africa to Britain. Hence, the British Government passed orders saying that whoever will produce synthetic quinine in Britain will get rewarded. All the scientists at that time started working in laboratories day and night to produce synthetic quinine.
One of the scientists of that time William Henry Perkin who was 19-year-old, was also working in a laboratory doing experiments to produce synthetic quinine, but he was miserably failing and was not getting a futile result.
One fine day, he again tried doing his experiments using crude and aniline and accidently something black in color was formed in the bottom of his test tube. He then tried to wash his test using water but the black substance was not cleaning out he then tried using alcohol. The result changed the history, when he added alcohol to the test tube the product in the test tube turned purple.
William, then realized he can sell his purple color as synthetic purple dye. William’s dye has now become the color of century. The color has opened many frontiers, William has now become one of the richest man of his time, the bridge between the rich and the poor was completely removed, his synthetic dye was the first ever made synthetic dye and was a pioneer for biological discoveries also we cannot ignore the fact how his single experiment saved lives of thousands of snails.
And, that is how a purple dye changed the world.