James Dyson

James Dyson

Dyson in 2015
Born (1947-05-02) 2 May 1947 (age 76)
Cromer, Norfolk, England
Alma mater
  • Inventor
  • industrial designer
  • farmer
  • business magnate
Deirdre Hindmarsh
(m. 1968)
RelativesJames Dyson (grandfather)
Provost of the Royal College of Art
In office
1 August 2011 (2011-08-01) – 1 July 2017 (2017-07-01)
Preceded byTerence Conran
Succeeded byJonathan Ive (as Chancellor)

Sir James Dyson OM CBE RDI FRS FREng FCSD FIET (born 2 May 1947) is a British inventor, industrial designer, farmer, and business magnate who founded Dyson. He is best known as the inventor of the bagless vacuum cleaner, which works on the principle of cyclonic separation. According to the Sunday Times Rich List 2023, he is the fifth richest person in the UK, with an estimated net worth of £23 billion.

He served as the Provost of the Royal College of Art from August 2011 to July 2017, and opened a new university, the Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology, on Dyson's Wiltshire campus in September 2017.

Early life and education

James Dyson was born 2 May 1947 in Cromer, Norfolk, one of the three children of Janet M. (née Bolton) and Alec William Dyson. He was named after his grandfather, James Dyson. He was educated at Gresham's School, an independent boarding school in Holt, Norfolk, from 1956 to 1965, when his father died of prostate cancer. 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."

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. It was while attending the Royal College of Art to study fine art that Dyson made the switch to industrial design, due in part to the tutorage of the structural engineer Anthony Hunt.

Early inventions

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, inventing the Trolleyball, a trolley that launched boats. He then designed the Wheelboat, which could travel at speeds of 64 kilometres per hour (40 mph) on both land and water.[citation needed]

Vacuum cleaners

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 pores kept becoming clogged with dust thus reducing suction. The cyclone idea came from a sawmill that used cyclone technology.

Partly supported by his wife's salary as an art teacher, and after five years and about 5,127 prototypes, Dyson launched the "G-Force" cleaner in 1983. However, no manufacturer or distributor would handle his product in the UK, as it would have disturbed the valuable market for replacement dust bags, so Dyson launched it in Japan through catalogue sales. Manufactured in bright pink, the G-Force sold for the equivalent of $2,000., or around $5,500 in 2023 taking inflation into account It won the 1991 International Design Fair Prize in Japan. He filed a series of patents for his dual cyclone vacuum cleaner EP0037674 in 1980. After his invention was rejected by the major manufacturers, Dyson set up his own manufacturing company, Dyson Ltd. In June 1993, he opened a research centre and factory in Malmesbury, Wiltshire.[citation needed]

Dyson's slogan, "say goodbye to the bag", proved attractive to the buying public. 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. In early 2005, it was reported that Dyson cleaners had become the market leaders in the United States by value (though not by the number of units sold). Dyson licensed the technology in North America from 1986 to 2001 to Fantom Technologies, after which Dyson entered the market directly.

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. Hoover agreed to pay damages of £4 million.

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 brushroll bar, and user interface via a free iOS or Android app.

Interviewed by Fast Company (May 2007), Dyson asserted the importance of failure in one's life, "I made 5,127 prototypes of my vacuum before I got it right. There were 5,126 failures. But I learned from each one. That's how I came up with a solution. So I don't mind failure. I've always thought that schoolchildren should be marked by the number of failures they've had. The child who tries strange things and experiences lots of failures to get there is probably more creative."

Other inventions

In the year 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 or silver of most other machines of the time, although white versions came later in its run. It was not a commercial success and was discontinued in 2005.

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. Called Wrong Garden, it was displayed at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2003. 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 really, 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 for faster drying, while using much less energy than traditional electrical hand dryers.

Dyson air-purifier. Some newer models have features like oscillation and adjustment of air flow direction.

Another product, launched in October 2009, is a fan without external blades which he calls the Air Multiplier. Functions such as heating, air-purifying and humidifying were added later.

In April 2016, Dyson launched the Dyson Supersonic, a hair dryer with a smaller motor in the handle to provide better balance and smaller size, as well as quieter operation. 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."

Research and development

In 2017, Dyson spent £7 million a week on research and development of new products. The company is the UK's biggest investor in robotics and artificial intelligence research, employing over 3,500 engineers and scientists, and engaging in more than 40 university research programmes. Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Dyson said, “We’re looking at more non-domestic products but we are not rushing to do lots of different things,” he said. “We are a private company so we can do it when we are ready.”

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

The then 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".

In March 2016, Dyson announced a second new multimillion-pound research and development centre on a 517-acre (209 ha) former Ministry of Defence (MoD) site at Hullavington, Wiltshire. The company said it aimed to double its UK-based workforce in the next five or six years. Dyson said: "After 25 years of UK growth, and continuing expansion globally, we are fast outgrowing our Malmesbury Campus. To win on the world stage you have to develop new technology and develop great products and that's what we're doing here.".

In September 2017, Dyson announced plans to produce an electric vehicle, aiming to be launched in 2020, investing £2 billion of his own money. He assembled a team of more than 400 people for the project. According to reports, the vehicle was intended to be powered by a solid-state battery, Dyson having acquired the battery company Sakti3 in 2015. In October 2019, Dyson announced that the electric car project had been cancelled due to it not being commercially viable.

In 2017, he launched the Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology.

Allegations of copyright infringement

Dyson has several times accused Chinese spies and students of copying technological and scientific secrets from the UK through the planting of software bugs and by infiltrating British industries, institutions, and universities after they left. He also complained that China benefits from stealing foreign designs, flouting of product copyrights, and a two-speed patent system that discriminates against foreign firms with unreasonably longer times.

Tax affairs

Dyson's tax affairs have been subject to considerable scrutiny in the British press across the political spectrum.

Lux Leaks

Dyson publicly stated in 2008, "I think it's wrong to direct your business for tax reasons. Your business should be where you can do it best". However, in 2009, his company Dyson Ltd incorporated a new parent company in Malta to create £300 million and £550 million in intercompany loans via Luxembourg and Isle of Man companies that increased tax-deductible interest payments in the UK between 2009 and 2012. The creation of the additional UK tax-deductible interest payments relied on deals with the Luxembourg tax authorities revealed in the 2014 Lux Leaks. The Dyson group stated to The Guardian in 2014: "At no time did the [group's former] non-UK structure deliver any significant tax advantage and, of the entities in question, all have been dissolved".

Estimated tax contributions

In the 2022 Tax List published by The Sunday Times in January 2022, Dyson and his family were listed as 11th of the UK's 50 biggest taxpayers. The newspaper estimated £101 million was contributed for the last full year on record. The IPPR think tank noted that only two of those listed in the 2021 Sunday Times Rich List – Dyson and the Weston family – were listed in that year's Tax List. In the previous three years, Dyson had featured at 6th, 4th and 3rd in the Sunday Times Tax List, with the newspaper estimating a total contribution of £345.8 million to the UK exchequer.

Political Views

Pro-European Union

In 1998, Dyson was one of the chairmen and chief executives of 20 FTSE 100 companies who signed a statement published in The Financial Times calling on the government for early British membership of the Eurozone. 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."

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." 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."

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." In February 2002, Dyson announced that production was being shifted to the Far East. In August 2003, the assembly of washing machines was also switched from Malmesbury to Malaysia.


Dyson was one of the most prominent UK business leaders to publicly support Brexit before the referendum in June 2016. Since the referendum, Dyson has stated that Britain should leave the EU Single Market and that this would "liberate" the economy and allow Britain to strike its own trade deals around the world. During 2016, 19% of Dyson Ltd exports went to EU countries, compared with 81% to non-EU countries. In 2017, Dyson suggested that the UK should leave the EU without an interim deal and that "uncertainty is an opportunity". Previously, in 2014, Dyson had said he would be voting to leave the European Union to avoid being "dominated and bullied by the Germans". In November 2017, Dyson was critical of the UK government Brexit negotiations and said "we should just walk away and they will come to us". After it became public in January 2019 that Dyson's company was to move its headquarters from Malmesbury to Singapore, he was accused of hypocrisy regarding his campaign for Brexit.

European Court of Justice

In November 2015, Dyson lost its case against EU energy labelling laws in the European General Court; however, a subsequent appeal in the European Court of Justice said that the previous ruling had "distorted the facts" and "erred in law".

Attacks on Rishi Sunak

Dyson attacked Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in January 2023 for what he called "ever higher tax bills" for corporations, accusing the PM of believing that "penalising the private sector is a free win at the ballot box". In May of the same year, he attacked Sunak again, over what he called a "scandalous neglect" of the science and technology sector. Dyson's interventions into UK politics led to the New Statesman naming him the British Right-Wing's 35th most influential figure.

Libel case against Channel 4 and ITN

In 2022, Dyson sued Channel 4 and ITN over allegations of exploitation of workers at one of his suppliers' factories. In the High Court, it was ruled that there was no personal defamation.


Dyson in 2013

Dyson set up the James Dyson Foundation in 2002 to support design and engineering education. It is a registered charity under English law and operates in the UK, US, and Japan. The foundation aims 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 resources such as the "Engineering Box", a box filled with activities for a school to use as a teaching aid.

In May 2014, the foundation announced an £8 million donation to create a technology hub at the University of Cambridge. The donation would also allow for a design and construction lab to be developed for undergraduate engineering students.

In March 2015, the foundation gave £12 million to Imperial College London to allow the purchase of a Post Office building in Exhibition Road from the Science Museum. Imperial College was to open the Dyson School of Design Engineering in this building, and teach a new four-year master's degree in design engineering.

Around 2021, the foundation gave £4million towards the construction of a £27 million hub for cancer services at the Royal United Hospital, Bath, to be called the Dyson Cancer Centre. This followed a £500,000 donation to the Dyson Centre for Neonatal Care at the same hospital, which opened in 2011.

The foundation supports the work of young designers through the James Dyson Award, an international design award that "celebrates, encourages and inspires the next generation of design engineers".

Dyson is also a trustee of The James and Deirdre Dyson Trust, a separate charity through which he and his wife make personal donations in various fields. In June 2019, the charity donated £18.75 million to Dyson's old school, Gresham's, to build a new STEAM Education building, which was completed in 2021. In November 2023, the charity made a further donation of £35 million to Gresham’s School to develop a state-of-the-art Prep School with a new building incorporating STEAM education facilities for pupils aged seven to 13.

Honours and awards

Personal life

Dyson married Deirdre Hindmarsh in 1968. They have two sons and a daughter.

In 1999, he acquired Domaine des Rabelles, an estate and winery near Villecroze and Tourtour, Var, France. In 2003, Dyson paid £15 million[citation needed] for Dodington Park, a 300-acre (1.2 km2) Georgian estate in South Gloucestershire close to Chipping Sodbury. He and his wife also own a house in Chelsea, London.[citation needed]

His vessel Nahlin is the largest British-flagged and -owned super yacht with an overall length of 91 metres (299 ft), and was ranked 36th in a 2013 survey of the world's 100 biggest yachts. He also owns two Gulfstream G650ER private jets registered G-VIOF and G-GSVI. He previously owned an older Gulfstream G650, registered G-ULFS and currently owns a AgustaWestland AW-139 helicopter.

In July 2019, Dyson spent £43 million on a 21,108-square-foot (1,961.0 m2) triplex flat at the top of the Guoco Tower, the tallest building in Singapore. He sold the flat in October 2020 for £36 million, and in April 2021 it was reported that he had moved his place of residence back to the UK. Dyson has also invested heavily in buying agricultural land in Lincolnshire, Oxfordshire, and Gloucestershire, and by 2014 was one of the biggest landowners in the UK.

Dyson is the beneficial owner of Weybourne Holdings Pte, a Singapore-based business that (as of 2023) owns 31 UK properties, worth at least £287 million.


Dyson's publications include two autobiographies:

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