Mauve, the first synthetic dye, produced by William Perkin

Whilst Perkin was working as an assistant at the Royal College of Chemistry he was given the task of synthesising quinine. Perkin's initial attempts to produce quinine from allyltoluidine failed, yielding nothing more than a brown precipitate. He decided to try aniline, giving a black precipitate which, when treated with alcohol produced a rich purple colour. Perkin patented his dye, and mass production of the first synthetic dye (mauveine) commenced in 1857.


Further info:

Mauveine: The First Industrial Organic Fine-Chemical -
http://www.ch.ic.ac.uk/motm/perkin.html