I just learned today that the pharmaceutical industry grew out of the research conducted for synthesizing dyes for the textile industry.
Paul Ehrlich, a medical student who noticed how dyes stain tissues differently, believed the chemical reaction between dye and tissue could be modified to make the dye lethal to infectious micro-organisms while not harming surrounding tissue – the ‘magic-bullet’ of chemotherapy. In 1907 this led Ehrlich to discovering the curative properties of the dye Trypan Red I, as a remedy for syphilis.
In 1935, the daughter of Gerhard Domagk, a doctor employed by German dye manufacturer I. G. Farbenindustrie, contracted a streptococcal infection from a pin prick. As her infection worsened, her father decided to give her an oral dose of a dye called Pronstil that had shown in research to inhibit the growth of streptococci in mice. The girl recovered and the modern era of chemotherapy was born.