But sometimes, quinine isn't available to do its fever fighting. Such was the case nearly 100 years ago, when the Englishman, William Henry Perkin, set out to chemically reproduce quinine to combat a Malaria epidemic. As one man has said "the chances for success then were about as good as those of a carpenter who tries to build a house at the foot of a hill by sliding shingles, rafters, doors and window casings down from the hilltop." Perkin failed in the synthesis but he did discover aniline purple, the first coal tar dye, and this started a new industry.
Some years ago quinine interested an American, Edwin Land, in connection with an entirely different project. He found that by aligning crystals of quinine and iodine in a transparent plastic sheet, he could inexpensively polarize light.
Many of you have used polarizing sun glasses based on this principle. But the new company which resulted from this development could see that trouble in the Far East might some day interfere with its supply of quinine. In March, 1942, their worst fears were verified - Japan seized Java. But in the meantime they had anticipated this event and had planned research along two lines: a substitute polarizer made without quinine and then the more difficult task that had baffled scientists for nearly a hundred years - synthesizing quinine itself.