Dyer, Henry, 1848-1918, engineer and educationist

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Dyer, Henry, 1848-1918, engineer and educationist

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Henry Dyer was born 16 August 1848 in Bothwell, Scotland and between 1863 and 1868 was an apprentice engineer with James Aitken and Co., Foundrymen of Cranstonhill, Glasgow. During this time he took evening classes at Anderson’s College, Glasgow. From 1868 to 1871 Dyer studied at the University of Glasgow and was awarded a ‘Certificate of Proficiency in Engineering Science’. During his studies, in 1870, Dyer was awarded a Whitworth Scholarship by the Science and Art Department of the Committee of Council in Education, London and was the first Scotsman to do so. He graduated with several degrees from the University of Glasgow: MA (1873); BSc (1873); DSc (1890); LLD (1910).

In 1873 Dyer was appointed as the first Principal of the Imperial College of Engineering in Tokyo, Japan and Professor of Civil and Mechanical Engineering. This new institution was designed to train the first generation of modern engineers for a newly opened Japan and Dyer was an influential engineer and educationalist who played an important role in revolutionising the Japanese Higher Education curriculum. Dyer was a great advocate for combining practice with theory and introduced the ‘sandwich course’ to Japan: combining sessions of theoretical instruction with periods of practical training on machines. During his time in Japan, he was also director of a large engineering works.

In 1882 Dyer was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun (Third Class) by the Emperor of Japan in honour of his work at the College. In the same year, he retired from the Imperial College but retained the appointment of Honorary Principal while becoming an honorary member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, Mechanical Engineers and Naval Architects of Japan. Also in 1882, he returned to Glasgow and became a trustee of the Young Chair of Technical Chemistry in Anderson’s College. In 1886 he was appointed a Life-Governor of the Glasgow and West of Scotland Technical College (formerly Anderson’s College) where he had a hand in organising the courses along similar lines to those in Tokyo. Dyer also became Governor of the West of Scotland Agricultural College, of the West of Scotland College for Domestic Science, and of the Glasgow School of Art. He became a prolific writer and in 1887 published his work “On the Education of Engineers”. He had numerous subsequent publications including “Dai Nippon- The Britain of the East” (1905).

Henry Dyer was awarded many honours later in his life including: the Order of the Sacred Treasure (Second Class) awarded by the Emperor of Japan in 1908; an Honorary Degree from the University of Glasgow, 1910; Chairmanship of the Glasgow School Board, 1914; and an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Engineering from the University of Tokyo (which, in 1886, had incorporated the Imperial College of Engineering) in 1915.

Dr Henry Dyer died on 25 September 1918 in Glasgow and is buried in Glasgow Necropolis.


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GB 249

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ISAAR(CPF): International Standard Archival Authority Record for Corporate Bodies, Persons and Families, International Council on Archives (2nd edition, 2003); Rules for the construction of personal, place and corporate names, National Council on Archives (1997).


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Created by Victoria Peters, January 2013.
Biography text added by Rachael Jones, January 2020.




-The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

  • The Royal Technical College Magazine, Vol V, No 6, March 1913, archive ref: OJD/1/5 (University of Strathclyde Archives and Special Collections)
    -'Henry Dyer': Information document written by R MacKenzie, 1990 (University of Strathclyde Archives and Special Collections)

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