Summary of the Molecule
If you sit down and think about how molecules were found and how they impact our society today where nobody knows that history, it’s quite sad. On molecule in that position is dyes. Dyes go back as far as 3000 B.C in Chinese literature but it was not the same back then as it is today. Roots, leaves, bark or berries were used for the earliest dyes and were valuable although they had problems like the color fading fast from vibrant colors to dull ones, difficulty obtaining them and they bleed out in every wash.
One color that was very common was blue and was sought after in the Indigofera tinctoria plant. Looking at the Indigofera tinctoria you would not know that you could use it for blue dye until after fermentation. It starts as Indican which colorless and through fermentation in the base it becomes Indoxol which is also colorless. Finally through oxidation in the air it turns into Indigo or otherwise known as indigotin (blue). Another valuable color was Tyrian purple which was worn only by kings or emperors. This color started from a compound secreted by the mollusk or snail and goes through oxidation in the air, adding another bromine atom creating Tyrian purple.
In Mythology it is said that Hercules is credited for the discovery of Tyrian purple. His dogs were said to be stained a deep purple color as they crunched on some shellfish. To manufacture this color the mollusks shells would be cracked open to extract a glad, which would then saturate a cloth and be allowed to dry so that the color would develop. A synthetic form of indigo was found by Johann Friedrich Wilhelm Adolf von Baeyer, a German chemist. When synthetic dyes started to be created in the 1700s it changed the world as we know it. It started with William Perkin when he was trying to synthesis quinine but none of his experiments worked. In one experiment it created a black substance that dissolved in ethanol to make a deep purple. He dropped a few pieces of silk into the mixture, laid it out to dry, tested the silk with light, and water and soap and realized that none of it had faded. Perkin opened a small factory and soon his purple was taking the world by storm. It also allowed others to come along and create synthetic dyes for other colors, which soon reached a number of about two thousand by the ninetieth century.
My Opinion and Author’s Argument:
I think that dyes have really impacted the modern world because it wouldn’t be that much fun to wear the same basic colors over and over again along with everyone else. Sports wouldn’t be the same because people would have a hard time discerning who was on whose team if they all wore the same color. I think the authors did a really good job explaining the history and chemistry about dyes in a way that people could understand and comprehend very easily. I also was intrigued the entire time about how far dyes go back in history and how much they have progressed since then. Production of dyes has had a huge impact to the industries of the world and trade. I wonder how much farther they could go.
Vitamin C, otherwise known as Ascorbic Acid, is a necessary part of the diet for primates, guinea pigs, and the Indian fruit bat. All other vertebrates are able to make ascorbic acid in the liver from simple sugar glucose. The process has four reactions; the first is when glucose goes through an oxidation reaction and turns into Glucuronic acid; the next step is a reduction reaction and turns into Gulonic acid. The third step is where a ring forms and turns into Gulonolactone; the finial step is another oxidation reaction forming Ascorbic acid.
Most people are not aware of the impact Vitamin C has had on the world. A pressing problem in the 14th and 15th century was scurvy. Scurvy is a disease caused by the deficiency of ascorbic acid, where the symptoms are but not limited to: exhaustion, weakness, swelling of the arms and legs, softening of the gums,excessive bruising, foul breath, muscle pain, lung and kidney problems. Scurvy was generally seen and recorded aboard ships because fresh food was scarce and what food they had turned hard and grew mold very quickly as well as the tight quarters did not help keep sanitation at its best. The impact of scurvy was great for Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama in 1497 because by the time he had sailed around the southern tip of Africa only sixty members of his crew where left from an original one hundred and sixty. Because of all the cases of scurvy, remedies where trying to be found. One found was that lemon juice worked to keep symptoms of scurvy at bay. Captain James Lancaster was said to have kept a flask of lemon juice with him on his flagship and gave three teaspoons every morning to anyone who showed signs of scurvy. Even though this proved to work many ships did not have the space to store fresh fruits on the ship as it would take up cargo space needed for trade.
Vitamin C needs to be apart of our diet and we get it easier than people have in the past and we take that for granted. Thousands of tons of ascorbic acid are made each year to give everyone the necessary amount of this vitamin that is vital to life and has proven, through research,to help with the common cold. The discovery of ascorbic acid lead to curing scurvy that allowed ships to sail father away and discover more about the world. I think that overall the importance and the use of ascorbic acid has increased while the acknowledgment about what it has already impacted has decreased.
I believe Penny Couterur and Jay Burreson did a very good job in describing how ascorbic acid changed the course of history. The chemistry was laid out in an easy to read manner and straight to the point. One point in the history section stood out to me and made me agree with the authors. That was Captain James Cook of the British Royal Navy. Some of Cook’s accomplishments where that of the discovery of the Hawaiian Islands and the Great Barrier Reef, the fist circumnavigation of New Zealand, the first charting of the coast of the pacific Northwest and the first crossing of the Antarctic Circle which he could not have accomplished if he did not have a fit and scurvy free crew. James Cook kept his ship clean from top to bottom and especially clean in his crew’s quarters. Clothes were washed regularly and bedding aired out as well as the decks were fumigated. Cook kept his men well feed and stopped at port as often as possible to replenish their food supply and through all of this he never lost a man to scurvy.