In 1856, a chemistry student in London named William Henry Perkin found that aniline, a colorless aromatic oil derived from coal tar, could be transformed into a black gunk that, when mixed with alcohol, would turn fabrics bright purple. With patent in hand, Perkin established the artificial dye industry. Wealth and honors followed soon thereafter. In 1906, on the fiftieth anniversary of this discovery, the American Section of the Society of Chemical Industry established the Perkin Research Medal for “original and valuable work in applied chemistry.” The first Perkin Medal went to Perkin himself. This is the medal given to Leo Baekeland ten years later. The obverse has a portrait bust facing three-quarters right, and “PERKIN RESEARCH MEDAL / 1856-1906.” The inscription on the reverse reads “PRESENTED TO / L. H. BAEKELAND SC.D. / 1916 / FOR DISTINGUISHED SERVICES / TO APPLIED CHEMISTRY.” Also “Tiffany & Co. Makers 18 Kt gold.”
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