Born in London on March 12, 1838, William Perkin was the youngest of the seven children of George Perkin, a successful carpenter.
Perkin attended the City of London School and in 1853 aged 15 he began working with German chemist August Wilhelm von Hofmann at the Royal College of Chemistry (now Imperial College London).
Perkin had made a lucrative discovery, and set to built factories and raise funds to made it widely available. But his experiment turned to be unsuccessful.
Perkin was a painting and art enthusiast and was delighted with this finding. According to Google's blog post, an 18-year-old laboratory assistant, Perkins was cleaning out a beaker following a failed experiment when he noticed that the constituents of the beaker left a vivid purple stain when diluted with alcohol.
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The discovery was significant as until then fabrics had to be coloured with expensive natural substances that could never be used in large quantities.
The colour purple was a mark of aristocracy and its long-time association with royalty, and so Perkin managed to garner commercial success with the discovery of the rich purple colour.
This was the ideal time for Perkin to have made his discovery and he went about getting his father to invest in his discovery, which caught on in Britain's booming textile industry right away.
Perkin gained fame, popularity and wealth with this discovery in the manfacturing dye.
During the rest of his life Perkin manufactured other synthetic dyes including Britannia Violet and Perkin's Green, as well as discovering the first synthetic perfume chemical coumarine.