1856. Eighteen-year-old chemistry student William Perkin's experiment has gone horribly wrong. But the deep brown sludge his botched project has produced has an unexpected power: the power to dye everything it touches a brilliant purple. Perkin has discovered mauve, the world's first synthetic dye, bridging a gap between pure chemistry and industry which will change the world forever. From the fetching ribbons tying back the hair of every fashionable head in London to the laboratories in which scientists developed modern vaccines against cancer and malaria, Simon Garfield tells the story of how the colour purple became a sensation.