Until the creation of synthetic dyes, most natural dyes were derived from plants, or to a lesser extent from shellfish and insects, and produced only a limited range of colours, and an even smaller range of affordable ones. William Perkin, who in 1856 was only eighteen years old, was experimenting with coal tar, attempting to synthesise quinine, when he found that from one of its components, aniline, he could precipitate a substance that dissolved in alcohol to produce a vibrant purple colour. Crucial for its place in the dyeing industry, it was effective when applied to materials, and was stable in sunlight. After it became particularly popular in France, Perkins renamed it 'mauve', after the French term for the purple mallow flower. …
Editors. "First synthetic dye invented by William Perkin". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 30 August 2013; last revised 30 November -1.
[http://www.litencyc.com/php/stopics.php?rec=true&UID=6315, accessed 28 April 2015.]