Teaching Science through History
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The Chemistry of Fabric Dyes
indigoChemical Reactions of the King of Colors: Indigo

by Deborah Gangnon

The dyeing of fabrics goes back over four thousand years. In this module students explore the history and chemistry of indigo, including dye recipes from an Egyptian papyrus from the 4th century and a Liberian legend about how the properties of indigo were discovered. They also investigate how the dye is extracted and produced, including fermentation, reduction and oxidation reactions. Students reflect on the nature of discovery, investigation and the various ways knowledge of chemistry may develop. Major NOS elements include:

  • science in different cultures
  • nature of discovery
  • science and commerce

Open Word document.