IELTS ACADEMIC READING TEST 18 | It is said that reading makes a person fully familiar with history and knowledge, and he becomes an expert when he does experiments himself. Anyway, below is the IELTS academic reading test practice, solve it.

William Henry Perkin | IELTS Academic Reading Test 18

The man who invented synthetic dyes

As a boy, Perkin’s curiosity fueled an early interest in the arts and sciences. photography and engineering. But it was a chance encounter with a dilapidated yet functional laboratory in his late grandfather’s house that cemented the young man’s enthusiasm for chemistry.

As a student at the City of London School, Perkin immersed himself in the study of chemistry. His talent and dedication to the subject was noticed by his teacher Thomas Hall, who encouraged him to attend a series of lectures given by the eminent scientist Michael Faraday at the Royal Institution. These speeches further tired the enthusiasm of the young chemist, and he later continued his studies at the Royal College of Chemistry, which he managed to enter in 1853, at the age of 15.


At the time of Perkin’s enrolment, the Royal College of Chemistry was headed by the distinguished German chemist August Wilhelm Hofmann. Perkin’s scientific talent soon caught Hofmann’s attention, and within two years he became Hofmann’s youngest assistant. Not long after, Perkin made a scientific breakthrough that brought him both fame and fortune.

At the time, quinine was the only viable treatment for malaria.

During his vacation in 1856, Perkin spent time in the laboratory on the top floor of his family’s house. He was attempting to make quinine from aniline, a cheap and readily available coal tar waste. Despite all his efforts, he did not stop at quinine. Instead, he created a mysterious dark sludge. Fortunately, Perkins’ scientific training and nature prompted him to investigate the substance further. By incorporating potassium dichromate and alcohol into aniline at various stages of the experimental process, he eventually produced a dark purple solution. And to prove the truth of the words of the famous scientist Louis Pasteur “chance only benefits the prepared mind”.

Historically, textile dyes were made from such natural sources as plants and animal excrement. Some of these, such as the glandular mucus of snails, were difficult to obtain and outrageously expensive. The purple dye extracted from the snail was once so expensive that only the rich could afford it in the society of the time. Furthermore, natural dyes tended to be muddy and fade quickly. It was against this background that Perkin’s discovery was made.


Perkin quickly realized that his purple solution could be used to dye fabric, making it the world’s first synthetic dye. He realized the importance of this breakthrough and wasted no time in patenting it. But perhaps the most fascinating of all Perkin’s reactions to his find was his almost immediate realization that the new dye had commercial potential.

Perkin originally named his dye Tyrian Purple, but it later became commonly known as mauve (from the French for the plant used to make purple). He sought advice from the owner of a Scottish dyehouse, Robert Pullar, who assured him that it would be worthwhile to produce the dye as long as the color remained fast (i.e. did not fade) and the cost was relatively low. And so, despite the vehement objections of his mentor Hofmann, he left college to give birth to the modern chemical industry.


IELTS With the help of his father and brother, Perkin established a factory near London. Using the cheap and abundant coal tar that was an almost unlimited by-product of London’s gas street lighting, the dyehouse began producing the world’s first synthetically dyed material in 1857. The company received commercial support from Empress Eugenio of France when she decided the new color flattered her. Very soon, purple became a must-have shade for all fashionable ladies in this country. To make matters worse, Queen Victoria of England also appeared in public in a mauve gown, making it fashionable in England as well.

Although Perkins gained fame and fortune with his first discovery, the chemist continued his research. Other dyes he developed and introduced included aniline red (1859) and aniline black (1863) and, in the late 1860s, Perkin’s green. It is important to note that Perkin’s discoveries of synthetic dyes had results far beyond the merely decorative. Dyes have also become vital to medical research in many ways. For example, they were used to stain previously invisible microbes and bacteria, allowing researchers to identify such bacilli as tuberculosis. cholera and anthrax. Artificial dyes still play a vital role today. And what would be particularly pleasing to Perkin, their current use is in the search for a malaria vaccine.


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