James Dyson

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For the English footballer, see James Dyson (footballer). For the English physicist, see James Dyson (physicist).
James Dyson
James Dyson in February 2013.jpg
James Dyson in Sydney, Australia, February 2013
Born (1947-05-02) 2 May 1947 (age 67)
Cromer, Norfolk, England
Residence Dodington Park, Gloucestershire, England
South of France
Chelsea, London, England
Nationality British
Education Gresham's School
Alma mater Byam Shaw School of Art
Royal College of Art
Occupation Inventor, industrial designer and founder of the Dyson company
Known for Dual Cyclone bagless vacuum cleaner
Net worth Increase £3 billion (2013)
Spouse(s) Deirdre Hindmarsh (m. 1968)
Children 3
James Dyson Foundation

Sir James Dyson, CBE, FREng[1] (born 2 May 1947) is a British inventor, industrial designer and founder of the Dyson company. He is best known as the inventor of the Dual Cyclone bagless vacuum cleaner, which works on the principle of cyclonic separation. According to the Sunday Times Rich List 2013, his net worth in 2013 was £3 billion.[2]

Early life[edit]

Dyson was born in Cromer, Norfolk, England, and was one of three children. Dyson was sent to Gresham's School, a boarding school in Holt, Norfolk, from 1956 to 1965, when his father died of cancer.[3] James excelled in long distance running: "I was quite good at it, not because I was physically good, but because I had more determination. I learnt determination from it."[4] He spent one year (1965–1966) at the Byam Shaw School of Art, and then studied furniture and interior design at the Royal College of Art (1966–1970) before moving into engineering.[citation needed]

Early inventions[edit]

Dyson helped design the Sea Truck in 1970 while studying at the Royal College of Art. His first original invention, the Ballbarrow, was a modified version of a wheelbarrow using a ball instead of a wheel. This was featured on the BBC's Tomorrow's World television programme. Dyson stuck with the idea of a ball which his brother had thought of, inventing the Trolleyball, a trolley that launched boats. He then designed the Wheelboat,[5] which could travel at speeds of 64 kilometers per hour (40 mph) on both land and water.

Vacuum cleaners[edit]

DC07 Dyson vacuum cleaner

In the late 1970s, Dyson had the idea of using cyclonic separation to create a vacuum cleaner that would not lose suction as it picked up dirt. He became frustrated with his Hoover Junior’s diminishing performance: The dust bag kept becoming clogged with loads of dust thus reducing suction. The cyclone idea came from the spray-finishing room's air filter in his Ballbarrow factory.[citation needed]

Partly supported by his wife's salary as an art teacher, and after five years and many prototypes, Dyson launched the "G-Force" cleaner in 1983. However, no manufacturer or distributor would handle his product in the UK, as it would disturb the valuable market for replacement dust bags, so Dyson launched it in Japan through catalogue sales.[6] Manufactured in bright pink, the G-Force sold for the equivalent of £2,000. It won the 1991 International Design Fair prize in Japan. He obtained his first US patent on the idea in 1986 (U.S. Patent 4,593,429).

After failing to sell his invention to the major manufacturers, Dyson set up his own manufacturing company, Dyson Ltd. In June 1993, he opened his research centre and factory in Malmesbury, Wiltshire.

Dyson's breakthrough in the UK market more than ten years after the initial idea, was through a TV advertising campaign in which it was emphasised that, unlike most of its rivals, it did not require the continuing purchase of replacement bags. At that time, the UK market for disposable cleaner bags was £100 million. The slogan "say goodbye to the bag" proved more attractive to the buying public than a previous emphasis on the suction efficiency that its technology delivers. Ironically, the previous step change in domestic vacuum cleaner design had been the introduction of the disposable bag — users being prepared to pay extra for the convenience. The Dyson Dual Cyclone became the fastest-selling vacuum cleaner ever made in the UK, which outsold those of some of the companies that rejected his idea and has become one of the most popular brands in the UK.[7] In early 2005, it was reported that Dyson cleaners had become the market leaders in the United States by value (though not by number of units sold).

Following his success, other major manufacturers began to market their own cyclonic vacuum cleaners. Dyson sued Hoover UK for patent infringement and won around $5 million in damages.[vague]

In a highly controversial and bitterly opposed move,[8] his manufacturing plant moved from England to Malaysia, for economic reasons and because of difficulty acquiring land for expansion, leaving 800 workers redundant in 2002. The company's headquarters and research facilities remain in Malmesbury. Dyson later stated that because of the cost savings from transferring production to Malaysia, he was able to invest in research and development at Malmesbury,[citation needed] but further redundancies at Malmesbury were subsequently announced in 2008.[9]

In 2005, Dyson incorporated the wheel ball from his Ballbarrow concept into a vacuum cleaner, creating the Dyson Ball, with the aim of making it more manoeuvrable.

Other inventions[edit]

In 2000, Dyson expanded his appliance range to include a washing machine called the ContraRotator, which had two rotating drums moving in opposite directions. The range was decorated in the usual bright Dyson colours, rather than the traditional white, grey or black of most other machines. The item was not a commercial success and is no longer available.[10]

In 2002, Dyson created a realisation of the optical illusions depicted in the lithographs of Dutch artist M. C. Escher. Engineer Derek Phillips was able to accomplish the task after a year of work, creating a water sculpture in which the water appears to flow up to the tops of four ramps arranged in a square, before cascading to the bottom of the next ramp. The creation titled Wrong Garden, was displayed at the Chelsea Flower Show in the spring of 2003.[11] The illusion is accomplished with water containing air bubbles pumped through a chamber underneath the transparent glass ramps to a slit at the top from which the bulk of the water cascades down. This makes it appear that the water is flowing up, when actually a small amount of water diverted from the slit at the top flows back down the ramps in a thin layer.

Dyson Airblade hand dryer

In October 2006 Dyson launched the Dyson Airblade, a fast hand dryer that uses a thin sheet of moving air as a squeegee to remove water, rather than attempting to evaporate it with heat. This allows faster drying, while using much less energy than traditional electrical hand dryers.

Another recent product is a fan without external blades, which he calls the "Air Multiplier".[12] In addition to a cooling fan, a model which distributes electrically-produced heat is available.

In mid-2014, James Dyson personally appeared in Tokyo to introduce his "360 Eye" robotic vacuum cleaner. Dyson's initial entry into this market segment features 360° scanning and mapping for navigation, cyclonic dust separation, a custom-designed digital motor for high suction, tank treads for traction, a full-width beater bar, and user interface via a free iOS or Android app.[13]

European single currency[edit]

Dyson is a long time supporter of the European single currency and was one of the chairmen and chief executives of the 20 FTSE 100 companies who signed a statement published in the Financial Times in 1998 calling on the government for early British membership in the eurozone.[14] He claimed that failure to join the Euro would lead to the destruction of the British manufacturing base and said: "It does not mean that the jobs will go tomorrow but will drift abroad over a period and the longer-term future of Britain as a manufacturing nation will be blighted. Ministers had better understand that if we delay entry too long there may be nothing left to save."[15]

Claiming that the strength of the pound was affecting his company's profits on exports to France and Germany, in February 2000 Dyson threatened to shift focus from his Malmesbury plant to a new plant set up in Malaysia because the government would not join the euro. He said: "We would expect to double in size in the next two years. We are talking about a £100 million investment and up to 2,000 jobs. I would like to make that investment in the UK. But it seems that is not going to be possible. The value of sterling means we are struggling to compete at home with cheap imports from Europe and the Far East. We do around £40 million worth of export business with France and Germany each year but we aren't making any money. If we joined the euro we would be on an even footing with our biggest trading partners."[16] An editorial published in The Times responded: "Mr Dyson, a manufacturing version of Sir Richard Branson, likes complaining. Yesterday he was complaining that Britain's failure to join the euro and the resultant strong pound will force him to move abroad. Last week he blamed the price of land and planning delays in Wiltshire, but never mind. So where will he go? To Portugal, Italy or to an EU candidate such as Poland? No, Mr Dyson threatens to go to the Far East. Like so many entrepreneurs, he wants a cheap currency and low interest rates, but also low inflation, low wages, a flexible labour market and low regulation. He will not find them in the eurozone."[17] Norman Tebbit, a former Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, also questioned Dyson's motives and said: "[W]hat still puzzles me is why such a euro-enthusiast as Mr Dyson does not intend to establish his new factory in Europe if he can't have it in Britain."[18]

Dyson again threatened to shift production abroad in November 2000, saying: "It's suicidal for the UK not to join the euro. Why should we go on exporting at a loss? We're facing unfair competition."[19][20] In February 2002, Dyson announced that production was finally being shifted to the Far East and admitted that "the driving force was hard cash. Wages in the Far East are less than half those expected in Britain, while it is 30 per cent cheaper to make a vacuum cleaner." Roger Lyons, general secretary of the manufacturing union Amicus, said: "Dyson has betrayed the 800 people whose jobs are being shipped out and hundreds more from supply companies. He has betrayed British manufacturing and British consumers who have put him and his product where it is today."[21]

In 2014, Dyson said he would vote to leave the European Union to avoid being "dominated and bullied by the Germans".[22]

James Dyson Foundation[edit]

James Dyson - photo by the Belgian photographer Michiel Hendryckx

Dyson set up the Foundation in 2002 to support design and engineering education. The Foundation's aim is to inspire young people to study engineering and become engineers by encouraging students to think differently and to make mistakes. The Foundation particularly supports schools in Wiltshire as well as medical and scientific research in partnership with charities. It achieves this by funding different resources such as the "Education box", a box filled with activities for a school to use as a teaching aid. The Foundation loans the boxes to schools for four weeks, free of charge. They are suitable for Key Stage 4 and above and can be used in universities. The Education box enables students to take apart and examine a Dyson DC22 Telescope vacuum cleaner. In addition, a school is allowed to retain a James Dyson Foundation teacher pack, and a copy of Genius Of Britain, a Channel 4 TV series featuring James Dyson himself, and design engineering posters. Other resources are also available.

The Foundation also supports the work of young designers through the James Dyson Award. This is an international design award that "celebrates, encourages and inspires the next generation of design engineers".[23] It is organised and run by the James Dyson Foundation Charitable Trust and is open to graduates (or recent graduates) in the fields of product design, industrial design and engineering.


He was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 1996 New Year Honours. In 1997, Dyson was awarded the Prince Philip Designers Prize.[24] In 2000, he received the Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran Award. He received an honorary D.Eng. degree from the University of Bath in 2000.[25] In 2005, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering[26] (FREng). He was made a Knight Bachelor in the 2007 New Year Honours. Since 2011 he has been provost of the Royal College of Art.

Personal life[edit]

Dyson married Deirdre Hindmarsh in 1968. The couple have three children: Emily, Jake (Jacob) and Sam.[27]

Dyson paid £15 million for Dodington Park, a 300-acre (1.2 km2) Georgian estate in Gloucestershire, close to Chipping Sodbury. He and his wife also have a £3 million château in France, and a town house in Chelsea, London.[28] His vessel Nahlin is the largest British-owned super yacht at 91 metres, and was ranked 36th in a 2013 survey of the world's 100 biggest yachts.[29][30]

Dyson is Provost of the Royal College of Art in London, having succeeded Sir Terence Conran in August 2011, [31] and is Patron of the Design & Technology Association.[32] He was chair of the board of trustees of the Design Museum, "the first in the world to showcase design of the manufactured object", until suddenly resigning in September 2004,[33] stating the museum had "become a style showcase" instead of "upholding its mission to encourage serious design of the manufactured object".

His son Jake followed by working on a degree in product design at Central Saint Martins in London. He creates light fixtures.[34]


Dyson, James; Coren, Giles (1997). Against The Odds: An Autobiography. ISBN 0-7528-0981-4. 


  1. ^ "List of Fellows". 
  2. ^ "Inventor Dyson tops south west rich list". ITV. Retrieved 20 June 2013. 
  3. ^ Dyson, James; Coren, Giles (1997). Against The Odds (1st ed.). London, UK: Orion Publishing. pp. 12–13. ISBN 0-7528-0981-4. 
  4. ^ "Against the odds". 
  5. ^ http://content.dyson.co.nz/about/story/default.asp?searchType=story&story=earlydesigns
  6. ^ "James Dyson Cleans Up". Forbes. 1 August 2006. 
  7. ^ Dyson, James; Coren, Giles (1997). Against The Odds (1st ed.). London, UK: Orion Publishing. pp. 134,135,244. ISBN 0-7528-0981-4. 
  8. ^ "Blair 'disappointed' over Dyson jobs". BBC News. 6 February 2002. 
  9. ^ "Job losses shock for Dyson staff". Swindon Advertiser. 12 October 2008. 
  10. ^ "Dyson declines to commit to controversial Contrarotator". 11 December 2007. Retrieved 19 April 2011. 
  11. ^ "How does Dyson make water go uphill?". BBC News. 21 May 2003. Retrieved 5 May 2010. 
  12. ^ "Dyson air multiplier fan". Dyson.com. 
  13. ^ "Dyson 360 Eye™ robot". Dyson. Retrieved 2015-03-26. 
  14. ^ Brown, Kevin (23 November 1998). "Business leaders give big boost to pro-euro lobby". Financial Times (London). p. 6. 
  15. ^ Gow, David (16 February 2000). "Strong pound puts Dyson in a spin: Entrepreneur threatens to take production abroad". The Guardian (London). p. 27. 
  16. ^ Manning, Clinton (16 February 2000). "Dyson: Only Euro can stop me heading East". Daily Mirror (London). p. 8. 
  17. ^ "Sucked in by euro illusion". The Times (London). 16 February 2000. p. 29. 
  18. ^ Tebbit, Norman (27 February 2000). "Just how will No 10 fix the big euro vote?". Mail on Sunday (London). p. 29. 
  19. ^ Doward, Jamie (5 November 2000). "Dyson in new euro jobs threat: I'll expand outside UK if we stay out, says cleaner king; Factory in Malaysia is standing by". The Observer (London). p. 1. 
  20. ^ Teeman, Tim (27 October 2001). "A master of spin comes clean". The Times (London). p. 3. 
  21. ^ Poulter, Sean (6 February 2002). "Dyson quits Britain; Accusation of 'betrayal' as vacuum cleaner factory moves to Far East". Daily Mail (London). p. 28. 
  22. ^ [1]
  23. ^ "James Dyson Award". jamesdysonaward.org. 
  24. ^ "Prince Philip Designers Prize: 1989—1998". Design Council. Retrieved 30 September 2011. 
  25. ^ "Honorary Graduates 1989 to present". University of Bath. Retrieved 20 May 2014. 
  26. ^ "List of Fellows". 
  27. ^ "James Dyson". nndb.com. 
  28. ^ "Survival, Dyson style". thisismoney.co.uk. 21 March 2004. 
  29. ^ Bryant, Miranda (14 August 2013). "Abramovich sunk in battle of superyachts: Emir's 180-metre vessel trumps Chelsea owner's as world's biggest". Evening Standard (London). p. 13. 
  30. ^ Hoyle, Ben (14 August 2013). "Emir knocks Abramovich off top of mega-yacht league table". The Times (London). p. 3. 
  31. ^ "Sir James Dyson to Succeed Sir Terence Conran as Provost of the Royal College of Art". Royal College of Art. Retrieved 20 May 2014. 
  32. ^ "A voice for subjects". The Council for Subject Associations. 13 October 2009. Retrieved 20 May 2014. 
  33. ^ Demetriou, Danielle (28 September 2004). "Dyson quits 'style over substance' Design Museum". The Independent. Retrieved 30 September 2011. 
  34. ^ "Light Mechanic: Jake Dyson - Architectural Lighting Magazine". Retrieved 2014-11-28. 

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