chapter  15
Coal tar reds and the death of madder
Pages 13

THE LATER tale of madder turned into a Classical Greek tragedy. When European dyers and chemists found out the Oriental secret of the beautiful Turkey red in the mid-18th century, the world opened at their feet. The energy released into chemical research during the Industrial Revolution resulted in the understanding of the chemistry of madder, the dyeing process and the nature and isolation of alizarin, the red dyestuff. The proud chemists found that they were playing god. Similar forces led to the discovery of a range of cheap synthetic chemicals to replace natural products. Perkin’s synthesis of mauve in 1856 was inevitably followed by Graebe and Liebermann’s synthesis of alizarin in 1869. Within a few years the world-wide madder industry was destroyed.