Man's physical universe

xanabras

"BETTER THINGS" FROM COAL 691

perfumes. Today coal tar is the chief source of our perfumes. It is

possible to duplicate any natural perfume, once its composition is

known, but inasmuch as thirty or forty ingredients must often be

skillfully blended to produce a given perfume, one can understand why

cheap perfumes, which contain only a few ingredients, do not have

the quality of odors equal to perfumes of more complex nature.

In 1939 the E. I. du Pont de Nemours Company produced a synthetic

musk, which has the extraordinary properties of natural musks

in fixing a perfume. (Fixing means causing a perfume to remain

on a material for a relatively long time.)

Dyes.

The development of synthetic dyestuffs had its origin in William

Henry Perkin's accidental discovery of mauve in 1856 during his research

on quinine. Today the chemist synthesizes from coal-tar

products dyes which are very much cheaper than the inferior natural

colors which they replace. The famous Tyrian purple obtained from

shellfish was so expensive that only kings could afford it, and purple

came to be considered the badge of royalty. This dye was obtained

from tiny sacs behind the heads of a kind of shellfish of the eastern

coast of the Mediterranean Sea. In 1909 Friedlander analyzed this

dye and found that it had already been synthesized and discarded

because of its inferiority to other dyes never found in nature. Any dye

found in nature can be duplicated and prepared in a purer condition

in the laboratory once its composition has been determined. The

knowledge of its composition is like an architect's blueprint, for

anyone who understands the methods of building molecules can

follow the plan once it becomes available. The analysis of dyes is not

a simple process. Thus the Badische Anilin und Soda-Fabrik spent

$5,000,000 and seventeen years in chemical research learning to make

indigo. Then they reduced the price from $4 a pound to 15 cents a

pound and received over $12,000,000 a year from their sale of this one

dye. Not only is synthetic indigo cheaper, but it is purer and more

uniform than vegetable indigo. Previous to the synthesis of indigo, it

had been obtained from India, where nearly a million acres produced

an annual crop valued at about $20,000,000. Within less than twenty"

years this profitable industry was wiped out.^ Though it was a loss to

India, it was a gain to the world.

Today man has available thousands of dyes which can duplicate

any shade found in nature and are more suitable for use. Most of


J. G. Crowther says that a million native workers in India and Burma died of starvation

as a result!