Yarn dyed by Ginny Tyson Barnes. Courtesy of The Lemelson Center,
Washington, DC. Photo: Sondra C. Berger.


Unit 3: True Colors explores the technology and invention of dyes and dyeing in the context of international economics and politics. By dyeing things themselves, students investigate the skills, materials, and equipment involved in the difficult dyeing process as well as the scientific method (the basis for dyeing methods and recipes.) Students also use a range of primary documents to learn about the role of World War I in the invention of synthetic dyes, continuity over time (as an important historical principle), and the influence of science and technology on each other.

Several of the activities in this unit formed part of the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation's symposium "The Colors of Invention: An Exploration of Color, Technology, and Culture" held at the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution in November 1997, as well as the Lemelson Center's "Innovative Lives" project designed to engage young people in the exploration of invention and innovation.

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