"One of our most versatile and gripping science writers." John Carey

One episode by Philip Ball
Radio 4 Broadcast 01/07/2015

How Perkin brought purple to the people

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Episode Four - How Perkin brought purple to the people

Philip Ball tells how William Perkin brought purple to the people in Victorian London.

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.

with Radio 4 iPlayer

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News from Philip


"Why physics is not a discipline", Nautilus 21 April. Available here.