A passion for purple In 1856, English chemistry student William Henry Perkin (1838–1907) was looking for a cure for malaria – he stumbled upon a way to make a synthetic purple dye from coal tar. History Professor Michael Haykin In so doing, he literally changed history, for his discovery led to advances in medicine, photography, perfumery, food production, and revolutionised the fashion industry. subscribe now Join today to gain access to the rest of this article and many others. more info login If you are already a subscriber, log in to continue. log in access code If you have an access code, enter it here: Go free trial Get free access for 14 days: Sign up Click here to find out how we take care of your personal data.