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History of Chemistry

Names early scientists and their findings

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It's a Colorful World

It's a Colorful World

Credit: Chris Parfitt
Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/chr1sp/2957810515
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

In the modern era, textiles can easily be dyed to furnish multi-colored fabrics.  But where do these dyes come from?  Chemistry, of course!

Amazing But True!

  • In 1856, an 18-year-old chemist named William Henry Perkin discovered the color mauve accidentally.  He did this simply by being curious and observant.  This is a clear example of pure chemistry; however, later that year he went on to patent the process for making this dye.  This led to many applications that eventually revolutionized the synthetic dye industry. 
  • Credit: smittenkittenorig
    Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/smittenkittenoriginals/2875537728/
    License: CC BY-NC 3.0

    Mauve colored scarf [Figure2]


  • Modern chemists can use these initial discoveries to synthesize a whole array of molecules with a variety of colors.  In fact the exciting developments in Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) televisions can trace their origins to the seminal work of Perkin in 1856.  You can learn more about the history of mauve and the relevance to the modern dye industry here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yStKZTn4OGk

Show What You Know

With the links below, learn more about color and its history.  Then answer the following questions.

  1. Indigo is a dye that is used in denim to produce the color in blue jeans.  What color of light is reflected from the indigo molecule?
  2. How was indigo originally obtained and what is the modern production method?
  3. What are the pure spectral colors that are representative of the visible spectrum and found in the rainbow?
  4. What is the approximate range of wavelengths for electromagnetic radiation in the visible part of the spectrum?

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Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: Chris Parfitt; Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/chr1sp/2957810515; License: CC BY-NC 3.0
  2. [2]^ Credit: smittenkittenorig; Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/smittenkittenoriginals/2875537728/; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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