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    The black spectrum – from coal to colour

    Leslie, Esther (2012) The black spectrum – from coal to colour. In: The Penzance Convention, 17-20 May 2012, Penzance, UK. (Unpublished)

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    Some time ago I wrote a book about coal, about how this dark substance from deep in the ground released from itself a rainbow of colours, inaugurating a synthetic world. The story I tell is a specifically German one. The coal-based chemical industries of colour synthesis develop from the middle of the nineteenth century. The story of Hoechst AG is typical. The factory was founded in 1863 (under the name “Tar Colour Factory Meister Lucius & Co.”) for the production of aniline dye. The first colouring material produced there was a red magenta dye (fuchsia). Characteristic of Hoechst, as of all the German chemical industry, was its ability to devise substitute (or ersatz) materials to compensate for lacking natural resources. German chemistry was cooked up in the pans and glass tubes of hobby scientists with alchemical zeal. They sought substances such as synthetic colours in red and blue, cheaply coaxed metallic matter and gemstones, or industrially produced soda ash and guano. Time's dominion was to be cracked too through the accelerating power of chemical reaction. Artificial treasures were chased, to supply burgeoning industries in a land without colonies and without its own expansive natural resources. Hoechst’s story is repeated in part at Badische Anilin- & Soda-Fabrik. BASF was founded in 1865 to produce coal-tar dyes. Its first products were aniline dyes, whose success was enmeshed with that of the textile industry. In 1871 the red dye alizarin, a pure alumina lake, was synthesised. Other synthetic pigments followed, of which indigo was probably most important. Later, in the years of two world wars, German industrial chemistry came to play a devastating role on the world stage, most notoriously under the name of IG Farben. My book traced some of that story


    Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
    School: School of Arts > English, Theatre and Creative Writing
    Depositing User: Esther Leslie
    Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2022 06:15
    Last Modified: 11 Nov 2022 03:50


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