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  William Henry Perkin

  The man who invented synthetic dyes

  William Henry Perkin was born on March 12, 1838, in London, England. As a boy, Perkin’s curiosity prompted early interests in the arts, sciences, photography, and engineering. But it was a chance stumbling upon a run-down, yet functional, laboratory in his late grandfather’s home that solidified the young man’s enthusiasm for chemistry.

  As a student at the City of London School, Perkin became immersed in the study of chemistry. His talent and devotion to the subject were perceived 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. Those speeches fired the young chemist’s enthusiasm further, and he later went on to attend the Royal College of Chemistry, which he succeeded in entering in 1853, at the age of 15.

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

  At the time, quinine was the only viable medical treatment for malaria. The drug is derived from the bark of the cinchona tree, native to South America, and by 1856 demand for the drug was surpassing the available supply. Thus, when Hofmann made some passing comments about the desirability of a synthetic substitute for quinine, it was unsurprising that his star pupil was moved to take up the challenge.

  During his vacation in 1856, Perkin spent his time in the laboratory on the top floor of his family’s house. He was attempting to manufacture quinine from aniline, an inexpensive and readily available coal tar waste product. Despite his best efforts, however, he did not end up with quinine. Instead, he produced a mysterious dark sludge. Luckily, Perkin’s scientific training and nature prompted him to investigate the substance further. Incorporating potassium dichromate and alcohol into the aniline at various stages of the experimental process, he finally produced a deep purple solution. And, proving the truth of the famous scientist Louis Pasteur’s words ‘chance favours only the prepared mind’, Perkin saw the potential of his unexpected find.

  Historically, textile dyes were made from such natural sources as plants and animal excretions. Some of these, such as the glandular mucus of snails, were difficult to obtain and outrageously expensive. Indeed, the purple colour extracted from a snail was once so costly in society at the time only the rich could afford it. Further, natural dyes tended to be muddy in hue and fade quickly. It was against this backdrop that Perkin’s discovery was made.

  Perkin quickly grasped that his purple solution could be used to colour fabric, thus making it the world’s first synthetic dye. Realising the importance of this breakthrough, he lost no time in patenting it. But perhaps the most fascinating of all Perkin’s reactions to his find was his nearly instant recognition that the new dye had commercial possibilities.

  Perkin originally named his dye Tyrian Purple, but it later became commonly known as mauve (from the French for the plant used to make the colour violet). He asked advice of Scottish dye works owner Robert Pullar, who assured him that manufacturing the dye would be well worth it if the colour remained fast (i.e. would not fade) and the cost was relatively low. So, over the fierce objections of his mentor Hofmann, he left college to give birth to the modern chemical industry.

  With the help of his father and brother, Perkin set up a factory not far from London. Utilising the cheap and plentiful coal tar that was an almost unlimited byproduct of London’s gas street lighting, the dye works began producing the world’s first synthetically dyed material in 1857. The company received a commercial boost from the Empress Eugenie of France, when she decided the new colour flattered her. Very soon, mauve was the necessary shade for all the fashionable ladies in that country. Not to be outdone, England’s Queen Victoria also appeared in public wearing a mauve gown, thus making it all the rage in England as well. The dye was bold and fast, and the public clamoured for more. Perkin went back to the drawing board.

  Although Perkin’s fame was achieved and fortune assured by his first discovery, the chemist continued his research. Among other dyes he developed and introduced were aniline red (1859) and aniline black (1863) and, in the late 1860s, Perkin’s green. It is important to note that Perkin’s synthetic dye discoveries had outcomes far beyond the merely decorative. The dyes also became vital to medical research in many ways. For instance, they were used to stain previously invisible microbes and bacteria, allowing researchers to identify such bacilli as tuberculosis, cholera, and anthrax. Artificial dyes continue to play a crucial role today. And, in what would have been particularly pleasing to Perkin, their current use is in the search for a vaccine against malaria.

  Questions 1-7

  Do the following statements agree with the information given in Reading Passage 1?

  In boxes 1-7 on your answer sheet, write

  TRUE if the statement agrees with the information

  FALSE if the statement contradicts the information

  NOT GIVEN if there is no information on this

  1 Michael Faraday was the first person to recognise Perkin’s ability as a student of chemistry.

  2 Michael Faraday suggested Perkin should enrol in the Royal College of Chemistry.

  3 Perkin employed August Wilhelm Hofmann as his assistant.


  4 Perkin was still young when he made the discovery that made him rich and famous.

  5 The trees from which quinine is derived grow only in South America.

  6 Perkin hoped to manufacture a drug from a coal tar waste product.

  7 Perkin was inspired by the discoveries of the famous scientist Louis Pasteur.

  Questions 8-13

  Answer the questions below.

  Choose NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS from the passage for each answer.

  Write your answers in boxes 8-13 on your answer sheet.

  8 Before Perkin’s discovery, with what group in society was the colour purple associated?

  9 What potential did Perkin immediately understand that his new dye had?

  10 What was the name finally used to refer to the first colour Perkin invented?

  11 What was the name of the person Perkin consulted before setting up his own dye works?

  12 In what country did Perkin’s newly invented colour first become fashionable?

  13 According to the passage, which disease is now being targeted by researchers using synthetic dyes?


  Question 1

  答案: FALSE

  关键词: Michael Faraday the first person

  定位原文: 第2段第2句“His talent and devotion…” 他的老师Thomas Hall发现了他在化学方面的天赋与热忱,鼓励其参加皇家学院著名科学家Michael Faraday的一系列讲座。

  解题思路: 从这句话很容易看出,Thomas Hall是文中提到的第一个发现Perkin化学天赋的人,尽管文中没有用到the first person这样的确切说法,但是看完第二段就不难发现,这点的确是对的。因此,题中的说法与文中的事实相反。

  Question 2


  关键词: Michael Faraday, Royal College of Chemistry,suggested

  定位原文: 第2段第3句“Those speeches fired…” Faraday的讲座进一步激发了这位年轻化学家的热情,在1853年,15岁的Perkin成功进入皇家化学学院学习。

  解题思路: 这句话仅仅告诉我们,Perkin是在听了Faraday的讲座后,对化学的激情更加澎湃,进而考上了皇家化学学院,而并没有提到Faraday与Perkin进行直接接触或沟通,所以题目是对文章中出现的人和事的过分解读。

  Question 3

  答案: FALSE

  关键词: employed, assistant,August Wilhelm Hofmann

  定位原文: 第3段第1、2句“At the time of Perkin’s enrolment, the…” 在Perkin入学时,皇家化学学院的院长正是著名的德国化学家August Wilhelm Hofmann。Perkin的科学天赋很快引起了Hofmann的注意,不到两年他就成了Hofmann最年轻的助理。

  解题思路:从这两句话中可以清晰地看出Perkin和Hofmann之间的关系,前者是后者最年轻的助理, 题目的说法和文中的陈述是直接抵触的。

  Question 4

  答案: TRUE

  关键词: rich and famous,still young

  对应原文: 第3段最后一句“Not long after that, Perkin made…” 在这之后不久,Perkin就取得一项能为他带来名誉和财富的科学突破。

  解题思路: 这里的“不久之后”,指的是Perkin成为Hofmann最年轻的助手之后,而成为助手是Perkin入学两年后的事情,第二段最后专门提到Perkin入学时只有15岁,所以可以推测出Perkin作出这项发现时也就十八九岁。经过这样的推断可知,题目的说法完全可以成立。

  Question 5


  关键词: only,quinine, South America

  定位原文: 第4段第1句“At the time,quinine…” 当时,奎宁是唯一可以治疗症疾的药物。这种药物是从原产自南美洲的金鸡纳树的树皮中提炼出来的……

  解题思路: 如果误把第一句中的only和第二句话结合,就很容易得出和题目一样的错误结论。 其实出题人的意图是说,当时只有奎宁可以治疗疟疾;而奎宁是从金鸡纳树的树皮里提炼出来的,金鸡纳树原产自南美洲。注意,这里出题人并没有说金鸡纳树只有南美洲才有。文中的说法不足以让考生得出如题目“出产奎宁的树木只能生长在南美洲”那样的结论。

  Question 6

  答案: TRUE

  关键词: a coal tar waste product,hoped to manufacture

  定位原文: 第5段第2句 “He was attempting to … ”他试图利用苯胺这种廉价又易得的煤焦油废料来制造奎宁。


  解题思路:这句话很清晰地表明,Perkin的确希望用煤焦油废料产品苯胺来制造一种药物——奎宁。 此题难度很低,连动词manufacture都没有进行任何替换。

  Question 7


  关键词: Louis Pasteur,was inspired by

  定位原文: 第5段最后一句“And, proving the truth of…” 正如著名科学家 Louis Pasteur所说,“机会总是垂青有准备的人”,Perkin意识到了他的意外发明拥有巨大的潜力。

  解题思路: 出题人在这里引用Louis Pasteur的名言来证明Perkin的成功绝非偶然,是他不断发现、不断试验的结果,但并没有提到Perkin是受Louis Pasteur的发明激发才有了自己的发明。本题和第2题在出题方式上有异曲同工之妙,都是让Perkin和名人扯上了关系,而实际上这种关系文中并没有提到。

  Question 8

  答案: the rich

  关键词: the colour purple

  定位原文: 第6段第3句“Indeed, the purple colour…”

  解题思路: The rich正好可以对应题目中what group in society,并且没有超过只能填两个字的字数限制,故答案应为the rich。

  Question 9

  答案: commercial possibilities

  关键词: new dye

  定位原文: 第7段最后一句 “But perhaps the most fascinating…”

  解题思路: 寻找题干中的关键字new dye, 绕过沿途synthetic dye的陷阱,很快就能找到定位句,锁定答案是new dye 的宾语commercial possibilities。

  Question 10

  答案: mauve

  关键词: name, finally, first colour

  定位原文: 第8段第1句“Perkin originally named his dye…”

  解题思路: 在此题中,考生需要注意题干中的关键副词finally, 此题指的是 Perkin的颜色最终被叫做什么,而不是起初被叫做什么。题干中的be referred to as是雅思阅读中经常出现的用法,等同于be known as / be named as / be defined as, 意为 “被称为…”答案是mauve。

  Question 11

  答案: Robert Pullar

  关键词: the name of the person, consulted, before setting up

  定位原文: 第8段的第2句“He asked advice of Scottish dye works owner Robert Pullar,...”

  解题思路: 本段提到Perkin在建立工厂之前,曾经征询苏格兰染料坊的老板Robert Pullar的意见,在得到Robert Pullar的建议之后,才开始建立自己的工厂。这里不要将Robert Pullar和Hofmann混淆,因为本段后半部分也提到了Perkin的恩师Hofmann。Hofmann是强烈反对Perkin这么做的。故本题答案是Robert Pullar。

  Question 12

  答案: France

  关键词: what country, first

  定位原文: 第9段第2、3句“Utilising the cheap and plentiful coal…”

  解题思路: 此句话明确指出在Perkin的工厂首度造出了第一支人工合成材料后, 法国皇后Eugenie十分喜爱这种新颜色,于是Perkin的染料坊进入了它的商业繁荣期。故答案是France。

  Question 13

  答案: malaria

  关键词: disease, now, synthetic dyes

  定位原文: 第10段最后一句“And, in what would have been…”

  解题思路: 寻找关键词 synthetic dye时,可能会被microbes, bacteria, tuberculosis, cholera, anthrax所迷惑。但是要注意的是都没有出现时间状语now。再继续向下寻找,就会发现 today, current等字眼,这说明这里才是真正的考点所在。仔细读这个句子不难发现,malaria(疟疾)才是正确答案。

  希望大家能够认真的对以上雅思阅读考前练习:William Henry Perkin,进行练习。