Abstract

Quinine, an alkaloid derived from the bark of the cinchona tree was brought to Europe from Peru in the 17th century. Isolation of quinine and other cinchona alkaloids was achieved in France in the early part of the 19th century and uncertainties of supply of the bark stimulated efforts to synthesize quinine. While attempting synthesis, the young chemist, William H. Perkin, stumbled on mauve purple, the first aniline dye. Use of dyes in histopathology and the infant specialty of medical microbiology established the reputation of Paul Ehrlich, and partial success with the use of dyes in trypanosomiasis and malaria encouraged the German dye industry to pursue these substances as antimicrobial agents. By good fortune, this led to the discovery of the sulphonamides by Gerhard Domagk in the mid-1930s, an event that stimulated much other work and may have influenced the development of antibiotics.