XX Celebrating International Women’s Day in CMYK! Read the True Story of Magenta: Malaria, Harry Potter, Killing Eve & Lombardy, Italy—It’s a Killer.

Molly Goddard displaying Killing Eve Villanelle dress – in this season’s magenta

My heart goes out to everyone ill or frightened by the virus pandemic. As the death toll nudges 4,000, here is an awesome, fun, Harry Potter-like story!
Now, you’ve all heard of magenta a.k.a. Fuchsia—the color that the Villanelle dress above is dyed. But I bet you didn’t know that the color was only created 150 years ago, and is named after a town in northern Italy!

In my Girl Who Fell magical realism thrillers, Magenta is the name of the Graham Norton-like sidekick to the villain. (Click above to get the Kindles @ 0.99, or wait a little for the Audiobooks.)
But did you know that magenta really doesn’t exist? It’s literally “all in the mind!” It has no frequency or wavelength of light…
But, we’re all familiar with the magenta ‘M’ of CMYC colors and printing. It’s defined as a purplish-red, located between red and blue on the color wheel. So, how come it’s not a color? Well, the magic that led to magenta‘s creation is just amazing…

In the mid-19th century, there was a great rush to invent things, and the industrial chemical revolution actually began with the serendipitous invention of the dye for mauve—by a real life Harry Potter.

This apprentice magician… okay, apprentice chemist… called William Perkin, a teenager in London, was trying to synthesize the medicine quinine for the treatment of another terrible disease—malaria.

One night in 1856, William was performing experiments in his crude laboratory in the attic of his home in Cable Street, east London. Suddenly, he noticed a thick purple compound bubbling from the apparatus! It was so bright a purple he thought it was magic! And it was! William had created the first synthetic fixed dye in history.

It was stable, and didn’t fade in sunlight, so Young William knew he was on to a winner. Producing more of the chemical in his parents’ garden shed with two friends, William went on to patent the first aniline dye in the world, as ‘Mauvine,’ when he turned 18.

Public demand for the dye was increased when Queen Victoria in Britain, and Empress Eugénie (wife of Napoleon III) in France, wore these purple colors; and when the crinoline or hooped-skirt, whose manufacture used a large quantity of cloth, became fashionable.
William made his fortune, and is remembered as one of the great pioneers of chemistry.

With Mauvine’s huge popularity, the search was on all over the world to develop more new colors. 
In France, in 1858, François-Emmanuel Verguin was not far behind. Being French, he was inspired by a flower—the Fuchsia—and managed to create a matching synthetic dye, and new color, that was to become a major part of the color wheel and of our language!

First named ‘Fuchine’ by François in 1859, after the flower, the dye and color was renamed—Magenta: after the Italian-French victory at the battle of Magenta in Lombardy, Italy!

So magenta had its name and, the rest, as they say, is history! It went on to become one of the most famous and used colors in the world. However, magenta is an extra special and extra-spectral color— it is not a hue associated with any visible light.

Magenta has no wavelengths of its own. It is evoked by light having less power in green wavelengths than in blue and red. 
In terms of brain physiology, the color magenta and all of its shades from purple to red, is simulated in our brains! When the eye reports the lack of green, but the presence of red and blue, the brain magically creates the hues and shades of magenta to exist in our minds. Now that’s what I call magical realism!


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