A long time ago I wrote a column about the Perkin Triangle. The device, named after William Perkin Jr., the son of the man who invented mauveine, is used by chemists to collect multiple fractions from a distillation. When I first started looking into the triangle I found it very difficult to find any mention of William Perkin actually using it. The more I looked, the more I realized that it hadn’t been Perkin’s invention at all, but rather that of a more obscure contemporary of his, Leonard Temple Thorne (1855-1941). Indeed, in the German literature the name Thorne was still being mentioned into the 1920′s and today the adapter is sometimes referred to as the “Anschütz-Thiele Vorstoss”.
In Avery Morton‘s amazing book “Laboratory Technique in Organic Synthesis”, the triangle-type receiver is still attributed to Thorne as shown below:
But here in the UK there is no question that its connexion with Perkin had become firmly entrenched and Thorne, though still alive, had been cast into obscurity.
Shortly after Perkin’s death in 1930, at a special meeting of the Chemical Society convened on October 16th, the stereochemist Norman Haworth (as in the projection/representation of sugars) reminisced about Perkin’s contributions to chemistry. It is a moving speech in which he paints a very detailed picture of the man and his love of lab work. The small extract is given below mentions the triangle:
If you want to read more of it, you can find it in Proceedings of the Chemical Society, 1930, C079. doi:10.1039/JR93000BC001