James Dyson

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For the English footballer, see James Dyson (footballer). For the English physicist, see James Dyson (physicist).
Sir James Dyson
Royal Society portrait (2015)
James Dyson at the Royal Society admissions day in London, July 2015
Born (1947-05-02) 2 May 1947 (age 69)[1]
Cromer, Norfolk, England
Residence Dodington Park, Gloucs,
Chelsea SW3 &
Domaine des Rabelles, Provence
Nationality British
Education Gresham's School
Alma mater
Occupation Inventor, industrial designer, founder of the Dyson company
Known for DC bagless vacuum cleaner
Airblade hand dryer
Net worth Increase US$4.9 billion (2015)
Spouse(s) Deirdre Hindmarsh (m. 1968)[1]
Children Two sons, one daughter[1]

Sir James Dyson OM CBE FRS FREng[2] (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 2016, his net worth is £5 billion,[3] up from £3 billion in 2013.[1][4][5]

Early life and education[edit]

Dyson was born in Cromer, Norfolk, one of three children. Dyson attended Gresham's School,[1] a boarding school in Holt, Norfolk, from 1956 to 1965, when his father died of cancer.[6] He excelled at 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."[7] 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.

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,[8] which could travel at speeds of 64 kilometres per hour (40 mph) on both land and water.

Vacuum cleaners[edit]

DC07 bagless 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.[9] The cyclone idea came from a sawmill that used cyclone technology (qv. History of Dyson Ltd).[10]

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.[11] 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 came more than ten years after the initial idea, through a TV advertising campaign in which it was emphasised that, unlike most of its rivals, the Dyson vacuum 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, and outsold those of some of the companies that rejected his idea, becoming one of the most popular brands in the UK.[12] 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. In 1999 Dyson sued Hoover (UK) for patent infringement. The High Court ruled that Hoover had deliberately copied a fundamental part of his patented designs in making its Triple Vortex bagless vacuum cleaner range.[13] Hoover agreed to pay damages of £4 million.

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.

In mid-2014, 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.[14]

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.[15]

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,[16] was displayed at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2003.[17] 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 product is a fan without external blades, which he calls the "Air Multiplier".[18] In addition to a cooling fan, a model which distributes electrically produced heat and an ultrasonic humidifier model are also available.

In April 2016, Dyson launched the Dyson Supersonic, a hair dryer with a smaller motor located in the handle so as to provide better balance and smaller size, as well as quieter operation.[19] Commenting on the launch Vogue magazine said "as the first product to launch from Dyson's new UK state-of-the-art hair laboratory, we have high hopes for the future of our blow-dries."[20]


In February 2002, Dyson announced that production was being shifted to Malaysia leaving 560[21] workers redundant in 2002 for economic reasons and because of difficulty acquiring land for expansion. The company's headquarters and research facilities remain in Malmesbury.

In November 2014, Dyson announced plans to invest a further £1.5bn into the research and development of new technology, including funding for a campus at the Dyson UK headquarters in Malmesbury which will create up to 3,000 jobs.[22]

Former Prime Minister David Cameron, said: “Dyson is a great British success story and the expansion of the Malmesbury campus will create thousands of new jobs, providing a real boost to the local economy and financial security for more hardworking families. Investment on this scale shows confidence in our long-term economic plan to back business, create more jobs and secure a brighter future for Britain.”[23]

European single currency[edit]

Dyson demonstrating his ContraRotator washing machine.

In 1998, Dyson was one of the chairmen and chief executives of the twenty FTSE 100 companies who signed a statement published in The Financial Times in 1998 calling on the government for early British membership of the Eurozone.[24] 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."[25]

An editorial published by 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."[26] Lord 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."[27]

In 2014, Dyson said he would now be voting to leave the European Union to avoid being "dominated and bullied by the Germans".[28] In November 2015, Dyson lost his case against EU energy labelling laws in the European Court of Justice.[29] Dyson was one of the most prominent UK business leaders to publicly support Brexit before the referendum in June 2016.[30] Since the EU referendum, Dyson has stated that Britain should leave the EU Single Market and that this would "liberate" the UK economy.[31]

James Dyson Foundation[edit]

Dyson in 2013 at Sydney, Australia

Dyson set up the Foundation in 2002 to support design and engineering education – it now operates in UK, US and Japan. 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 supports engineering education in schools and universities, as well as medical and scientific research in partnership with charities. It achieves this by funding different resources such as the "Engineering 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. The Engineering 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 Dyson, and design engineering posters. Other resources are also available.

In May 2014, the Foundation announced an £8m donation to create a technology hub at the University of Cambridge. A new four-storey building will house 1,200 postgraduate engineers and support world-leading research. The donation will also allow for a design and making lab to be developed for undergraduate engineering students.[32]

In March 2015, the James Dyson Foundation pledged a £12m donation to Imperial College London to allow the purchase of an iconic Post Office building (located on Exhibition Road) from the Science Museum. Imperial College will open the Dyson School of Design Engineering in this building, and teach a new four-year Masters course in design engineering, developing a new cohort of creative and theoretical engineers.[33]

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".[34] It is run in twenty countries and is open to recent graduates in product design, industrial design, and engineering.

Honours and awards[edit]

In 1997, Dyson was awarded The Prince Philip Designers Prize.[35] Dyson was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 1998 New Year Honours. In 2000, he received the Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran Award. He received an Honorary DEng degree from the University of Bath in 2000.[36] In 2005, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering (FREng).[37] He was appointed a Knight Bachelor in the 2007 New Year Honours. Since 2011 he has been Provost of the Royal College of Art. Dyson was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 2015.[2] In the 2016 New Year Honours, Dyson's appointment to the Order of Merit (OM) was announced for "contributions and achievements in industrial design".[38][39] 2017: IEEE Honorary Membership

Personal life[edit]

Dyson married Deirdre Dyson (née Hindmarsh) in 1968.[1] The couple have three children.[1][40] In 2003, Dyson paid £15 million[citation needed] for Dodington Park,[41] a 300-acre (1.2 km2) Georgian estate in South Gloucestershire close to Chipping Sodbury. He and his wife also own Domaine des Rabelles, near Tourtour, France, and a townhouse in Chelsea, London.[42] His vessel Nahlin is the largest British-flagged and owned super yacht with an LOA of 91 metres (299 ft), and was ranked 36th in a 2013 survey of the world's 100 biggest yachts.[43][44]

Dyson is Provost of the Royal College of Art in London, having succeeded Sir Terence Conran in August 2011,[45] and is Patron of the Design & Technology Association.[46] 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,[47] stating the museum had "become a style showcase" instead of "upholding its mission to encourage serious design of the manufactured object".


  1. ^ a b c d e f g DYSON, Sir James. ukwhoswho.com. Who's Who. 2015 (online Oxford University Press ed.). A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc.  (subscription required)
  2. ^ a b c Anon (2015). "Sir James Dyson CBE FREng FRS". royalsociety.org. London: Royal Society.  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from the royalsociety.org website where:

    "All text published under the heading 'Biography' on Fellow profile pages is available under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License." --"Royal Society Terms, conditions and policies". Archived from the original on 25 September 2015. Retrieved 9 March 2016. 

  3. ^ Beresford, Philip, ed. (April 2015). "Rich List". thesundaytimes.co.uk. Retrieved 9 October 2015. 
  4. ^ "Inventor Dyson tops south west rich list". ITV. Retrieved 20 June 2013. 
  5. ^ Dyson, James; Coren, Giles (1997). Against The Odds: An Autobiography. ISBN 0-7528-0981-4. 
  6. ^ Dyson, James; Coren, Giles (1997). Against The Odds (1st ed.). London, UK: Orion Publishing. pp. 12–13. ISBN 0-7528-0981-4. 
  7. ^ Clark, Hannah. "James Dyson Cleans Up". Forbes. Retrieved 17 August 2016. 
  8. ^ Inside Dyson
  9. ^ "About Dyson". 2015. 
  10. ^ Issue: The Journal of Business and Design, vol. 8, no. 1
  11. ^ "James Dyson Cleans Up". Forbes. 1 August 2006. 
  12. ^ Dyson, James; Coren, Giles (1997). Against The Odds (1st ed.). London, UK: Orion Publishing. pp. 134, 135, 244. ISBN 0-7528-0981-4. 
  13. ^ "Dyson cleans up in patent battle with rival Hoover". The Telegraph. Retrieved 28 August 2015. 
  14. ^ "Dyson 360 Eye™ robot". Dyson. Retrieved 26 March 2015. 
  15. ^ "Dyson declines to commit to controversial Contrarotator". 11 December 2007. Retrieved 19 April 2011. 
  16. ^ BBC notice of Dyson's water sculpture Wrong Garden with photos and diagram.
  17. ^ "How does Dyson make water go uphill?". BBC News. 21 May 2003. Retrieved 5 May 2010. 
  18. ^ "Dyson air multiplier fan". Dyson.com. 
  19. ^ "The Dyson Supersonic™ hair dryer". www.dyson.com. Retrieved 27 April 2016. 
  20. ^ "Blown Away". Vogue. 27 April 2016. 
  21. ^ "Dyson to plough £1bn into R&D". Financial Times. 21 November 2014. 
  22. ^ "Dyson founder ploughs £1.5bn into product invention and new campus". The Guardian. 21 November 2014. 
  23. ^ "Dyson founder ploughs £1.5bn into product invention and new campus". Wiltshire and Gloucester Standard. 21 November 2014. 
  24. ^ Brown, Kevin (23 November 1998). "Business leaders give big boost to pro-euro lobby". Financial Times. London. p. 6. 
  25. ^ Gow, David (16 February 2000). "Strong pound puts Dyson in a spin: Entrepreneur threatens to take production abroad". The Guardian. London. p. 27. 
  26. ^ "Sucked in by euro illusion". The Times. London. 16 February 2000. p. 29. 
  27. ^ Tebbit, Norman (27 February 2000). "Just how will No 10 fix the big euro vote?". Mail on Sunday. London. p. 29. 
  28. ^ "Dyson: Britain should leave Europe to avoid being 'dominated by Germans'". Telegraph.co.uk. 21 November 2014. 
  29. ^ "James Dyson loses EU battle over vacuum cleaners". Telegraph.co.uk. 15 June 2016. 
  30. ^ https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/sep/14/sir-james-dyson-upbeat-about-brexit-as-company-invests-in-expansion
  31. ^ "Now Sir James Dyson urges single market exit, just months after losing a nasty battle in Brussels". Independent.co.uk. 14 September 2016. 
  32. ^ "The James Dyson Foundation donates £8m to fuel invention powerhouse". University of Cambridge. 6 May 2014. Retrieved 12 August 2015. 
  33. ^ "Chancellor and James Dyson launch Imperial's design engineering school". Imperial College London. 23 March 2015. Retrieved 12 August 2015. 
  34. ^ "James Dyson Award". jamesdysonaward.org. 
  35. ^ "Prince Philip Designers Prize: 1989—1998". Design Council. Archived from the original on 11 April 2012. Retrieved 30 September 2011. 
  36. ^ "Honorary Graduates 1989 to present". University of Bath. Retrieved 20 May 2014. 
  37. ^ "List of Fellows". 
  38. ^ The London Gazette: no. 61470. p. 546. 13 January 2016.
  39. ^ "Easyjet's Carolyn McCall and James Dyson on New Year Honours list". BBC News. BBC. Retrieved 31 December 2015. 
  40. ^ "James Dyson". nndb.com. 
  41. ^ James Dyson works at DODINGTON PARK MANAGEMENT LLP since 15 June 2010 currently as a Member of a Limited Liability Partnership – http://www.cbetta.com/director/james-dyson-20
  42. ^ "Survival, Dyson style". thisismoney.co.uk. 21 March 2004. 
  43. ^ 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. 
  44. ^ Hoyle, Ben (14 August 2013). "Emir knocks Abramovich off top of mega-yacht league table". The Times. London. p. 3. 
  45. ^ "Sir James Dyson to Succeed Sir Terence Conran as Provost of the Royal College of Art". Royal College of Art. Retrieved 20 May 2014. 
  46. ^ "A voice for subjects". The Council for Subject Associations. 13 October 2009. Retrieved 20 May 2014. 
  47. ^ Demetriou, Danielle (28 September 2004). "Dyson quits 'style over substance' Design Museum". The Independent. Archived from the original on 29 October 2010. Retrieved 30 September 2011. 

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