from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun A blue substance used in dyeing, originally produced from the tar of beech-wood.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun (Chem.) A dark blue substance obtained from wood tar. It consists of hydrocarbons which when oxidized form the orange-yellow eupittonic compounds, the salts of which are dark blue.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun organic chemistry A dark blue dyestuff, the first to be commercially produced.


from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Ancient Greek pitch + beautiful: compare French pittacale.


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  • "Pittacal was the first synthetic dyestuff to be produced commercially. It was accidentally discovered by German chemist Carl Ludwig Reichenbach in 1832, who was also the discoverer of kerosene, phenol, eupion, paraffin wax and creosote.

    As the history goes, Reichenbach applied creosote to the wooden posts of his home, in order to drive away dogs who urinated on them. The strategy was ineffectual, however, and he noted that the dog's urine reacted with creosote to form an intense dark blue deposit. He named the new substance píttacal (from Greek words tar and beautiful). He later was able to produce pure pittacal by treating beechwood tar with barium oxide and using alumina as a mordant to the dye's fabrics. Although sold commercially as a dyestuff, it did not fare well."


    May 22, 2017