Henry Dyer

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Henry Dyer
Henry Dyer.gif
Henry Dyer
Born(1848-08-16)16 August 1848
Died25 September 1918(1918-09-25) (aged 70)
Occupationengineer, educator

Henry Dyer (23 August 1848 – 25 September 1918) was a Scottish engineer who contributed much to founding Western-style technical education in Japan and Anglo-Japanese relations.

Early life[edit]

Henry Dyer was born on 16 August 1848, in the village of Muirmadkin (now absorbed into the town of Bellshill) in the Parish of Bothwell in what is now known as North Lanarkshire.

Around 1865, the Dyer family moved to Glasgow where Henry was employed at James Aitken and Company's foundry in Cranstonhill. There he served his apprenticeship as a student engineer under Thomas Kennedy and A C Kirk. At the same time, he attended classes at Anderson's College (later to become the University of Strathclyde) together with Yamao Yōzō.

Dyer studied engineering education at Glasgow University from 1868 under Professor William Rankine, who was eager to establish the faculty of engineering. He was the first Scot to win the Whitworth scholarship awarded in 1868, which was for the further instruction of young men gifted in the practice and theory of mechanics. Henry Dyer graduated from Glasgow University in 1873 with a "certificate in proficiency in engineering", the forerunner of the BSc in Engineering, from the Engineering department.

Japan (1873–1882)[edit]

The Engineering Institution (Kogaku Rio) of Japan's Public Works (Kobu Sho) headed by Yozo Yamao looked for proper teaching staffs for the engineering school through his connections in 1872, and eventually asked it to Hugh Matheson[1]. Matheson first consulted with Lewis Gordon, and then with William John Macquorn Rankine[2].. Rankine arranged the teaching staffs lead by Dyer as Principal and Professor of Engineering, and informed it to Itō Hirobumi, minister of Public Works, at the time vice Ambassador of the Iwakura Mission[3].

The Engineering Institution aimed at creating young Japanese engineers who take responsibility for rapid industrialization. Dyer arrange 6 years programme consisting of basic (general and science subjects), professional (technical subjects) and practical course 2 years each for 6 departments. The ICE programme seemed to be revised version of the Royal Indian Engineering College, suitable for Japan's situation. To provide practical training, Dyer helped set up the Akabane Engineering Works, the largest in the Empire of Japan. Many of the major engineering works carried out in Japan at the end of the 19th century were by his former students, and Dyer also sent many to Glasgow to complete their education.

When he left the ICE in 1882, Dyer was made Honorary Principal and Emperor Meiji awarded him the Third Class of the Order of the Rising Sun, the highest Japanese honour available to foreigners. He had established a progressive system of engineering education in Tokyo and greatly contributed to the progress Japan made as an industrial power.

Returning from Japan, Henry Dyer brought back various Japanese artefacts and art works, some of which were later donated by his descendants to the Mitchell Library, Glasgow and Edinburgh Central Library. Included in the bequest to Edinburgh Central Library donated by Dyer's daughter Marie Ferguson Dyer, is the painted handscroll Theatres of the East by the Japanese artist Furuyama Moromasa,[4] loose Japanese woodblock prints, bound woodblock printed volumes, bound volumes of paintings, and a collection of nineteenth century Japanese photographs attributed to Franz von Stillfried-Ratenicz.[5]

Scotland (1882–1918)[edit]

Henry Dyer went back to Scotland and in 1886 became a life governor of the Glasgow and West of Scotland Technical College (previously Anderson's College, where he had been a student, and later to become the University of Strathclyde, and governor of the Glasgow and West of Scotland Agricultural College. He became a member of the Glasgow School Board in 1891 and was its president from 1914 until his death.

Dyer represented a tireless pro-Japanese lobby within Scotland. He assisted Japanese students, engineers and trainee managers and had a staunch ally in Captain A R Brown of the company Brown, McFarlane who had been responsible for taking the first Clyde-built ships to Japan. Dyer worked as an unofficial liaison officer for the Japanese Government in Glasgow and thanks to his efforts Glasgow University Court permitted Japanese as a language for entry in 1901. In the same year Professors Jōji Sakurai and Isao Iijima of the Tokyo Imperial University were awarded honorary degrees during the University’s Ninth Jubilee celebrations.

The University of Strathclyde's Henry Dyer Building, home to the Department of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering, was named after him.

In 2015 he was inducted into the Scottish Engineering Hall of Fame[6]


Married 23 May 1874, Marie Euphemia Aqaurt Ferguson, eldest daughter of Duncan Ferguson of Glasgow at the British Legation in Yokohama, Japan.[7]


  • The Evolution of Industry (1895)
  • Dai Nippon: The Britain of the East (1904)
  • Japan in World Politics (1909)
  • Collected Writings of Henry Dyer, in 5 vols., edited by Nobuhiro Miyoshi, Tokyo: Edition Synapse. ISBN 978-4-901481-83-0

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hideo Izumida, Reconsideration of the Foundation of Engineering Institution, Transaction of Japan's Institute of Architecture, 2015, pp.885-890.
  2. ^ David Stevenson & Thomas Constable, Memoir of Lewis D. B. Gordon,1877, pp.225-230
  3. ^ James Oswald Dykes, Memorials of Hugh M Matheson,1899, pp.205-206
  4. ^ "Early 18th Century Japanese Scroll". Capital Collections. Retrieved 26 February 2016.
  5. ^ edinburghcitylibraries. "The people who helped shape Edinburgh Libraries: Henry Dyer". Tales of One City. Retrieved 26 February 2016.
  6. ^ http://engineeringhalloffame.org/ accessed 4 October 2015
  7. ^ "Mail Summary: Married". The Japan Gazette. 5 June 1874.
  • Olive Checkland, 'Henry Dyer at the Imperial College of Engineering Tokyo, and afterwards in Glasgow', Chapter 11, Britain & Japan: Biographical Portraits, Volume 3, Japan Library, ISBN 1-873410-89-1
  • Collected Writings of Henry Dyer, ISBN 1-901903-71-0
  • Henry Dyer: Pioneer of Education in Japan, by Nobuhiro Miyoshi, 2004, ISBN 1-901903-66-4
  • Henry Dyer, a Scottish Engineer in Japan, Robin Hunter (with a Foreword by Lesley Hart), available as an ebook or paperback from Amazon.

External sources[edit]