John Boyd Dunlop

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John Boyd Dunlop
John Boyd Dunlop.jpg
Born(1840-02-05)5 February 1840
Died23 October 1921(1921-10-23) (aged 81)
Resting place Deans Grange Cemetery
Nationality Scot resident in Ireland
Citizenship British
Known forInvention of the pneumatic tyre (unaware of prior patent)

John Boyd Dunlop (5 February 1840 – 23 October 1921) was a Scottish inventor and veterinary surgeon who spent most of his career in Ireland. Familiar with making rubber devices, he re-invented pneumatic tyres for his child's tricycle and developed them for use in cycle racing. He sold his rights to the pneumatic tyres to a company he formed with the president of the Irish Cyclists' Association, Harvey Du Cros, for a small cash sum and a small shareholding in their pneumatic tyre business. Dunlop withdrew in 1896. The company that bore his name, Dunlop Pneumatic Tyre Company, was not incorporated until later using the name well known to the public, but it was Du Cros's creation.

Natural rubber Polymer harvested from certain trees

Natural rubber, also called India rubber or caoutchouc, as initially produced, consists of polymers of the organic compound isoprene, with minor impurities of other organic compounds, plus water. Thailand and Indonesia are two of the leading rubber producers. Forms of polyisoprene that are used as natural rubbers are classified as elastomers.

Tire ring-shaped covering that fits around a wheels rim

A tire or tyre is a ring-shaped component that surrounds a wheel's rim to transfer a vehicle's load from the axle through the wheel to the ground and to provide traction on the surface traveled over. Most tires, such as those for automobiles and bicycles, are pneumatically inflated structures, which also provide a flexible cushion that absorbs shock as the tire rolls over rough features on the surface. Tires provide a footprint that is designed to match the weight of the vehicle with the bearing strength of the surface that it rolls over by providing a bearing pressure that will not deform the surface excessively.


A tricycle, often abbreviated to trike, is a human-powered three-wheeled vehicle.


Veterinary practice

He was born on a farm in Dreghorn, North Ayrshire, and studied to be a veterinary surgeon at the Dick Vet, University of Edinburgh, a profession he pursued for nearly ten years at home, moving to Downpatrick, Ireland in 1867.

Dreghorn village in United Kingdom

Dreghorn is a village in North Ayrshire, Scotland, 3.5 kilometres (2.2 mi) to the east of Irvine town centre, on the old main road from Irvine to Kilmarnock. It is sited on a ridge between two rivers. As archaeological excavations near the village centre have found a significant neolithic settlement provisionally dated to around 3500BC, as well as medieval structures, scholars have suggested that Dreghorn could be Britain's oldest continuously inhabited village. Both Irvine and Dreghorn have grown in size and they are now separated by the Annick Valley Park, which incorporates a footpath and National Cycle Route 73 on the route of the disused Irvine to Busby railway line.

North Ayrshire Council area of Scotland

North Ayrshire is one of 32 council areas in Scotland. It has a population of roughly 135,800 people. It is located in the southwest of Scotland, and borders the areas of Inverclyde to the north, Renfrewshire to the northeast and East Ayrshire and South Ayrshire to the east and south respectively. North Ayrshire Council is a hung Council. North Ayrshire also forms part of the east coast of the Firth of Clyde.

University of Edinburgh public research university in Edinburgh, Scotland

The University of Edinburgh, founded in 1582, is the sixth oldest university in the English-speaking world and one of Scotland's ancient universities. The university has five main campuses in the city of Edinburgh, with many of the buildings in the historic Old Town belonging to the university. The university played an important role in leading Edinburgh to its reputation as a chief intellectual centre during the Age of Enlightenment, and helped give the city the nickname of the Athens of the North.

Quite early in his life he was told he had been a premature birth, two months before his mother had expected. He convinced himself his health was delicate and throughout his life acted accordingly, but he had no serious illness until he contracted a chill in October 1921 aged 81 and died unexpectedly. Sir Arthur Du Cros described him as a diffident and gentle-mannered man but confident in his abilities. [1]

He married Margaret Stevenson in 1871 and they had a daughter and a son. He established Downe Veterinary Clinic in Downpatrick with his brother James Dunlop before moving to a practice in 38–42 May Street, Belfast where, by the mid 1880s, his was one of the largest practices in Ireland.

Downpatrick town in Northern Ireland

Downpatrick is a small-sized town about 33 km (21 mi) south of Belfast in County Down, Northern Ireland. It has been an important site since ancient times. Its cathedral is said to be the burial place of Saint Patrick. Today, it is the county town of Down and the joint headquarters of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council. Downpatrick area has currently shown to have a population of 10,874 according to the 2011 Census, although it is likely to have increased in recent years.

Dunlop developed pneumatic tyres for his son's tricycle and soon had them made commercially in Scotland. A cyclist using his tyres began to win all races and drew the attention of Harvey Du Cros. Dunlop sold his rights into a new business with Du Cros for some cash and a small shareholding. With Du Cros he overcame many difficulties experienced by their business, including the loss of his patent rights. In 1892 he retired from his veterinary practice and moved to Dublin soon after Harvey Du Cros with his assistance successfully refloated Booth Bros of Dublin as the Pneumatic Tyre and Booth's Cycle Agency. The pneumatic tyre revolutionised the bicycle industry, which had boomed after the 1885 introduction of J K Starley's safety bicycle. [2]

Dublin capital and largest city in Ireland

Dublin is the capital and largest city of Ireland. It is on the east coast of Ireland, in the province of Leinster, at the mouth of the River Liffey, and is bordered on the south by the Wicklow Mountains. It has an urban area population of 1,173,179, while the population of the Dublin Region, as of 2016, was 1,347,359, and the population of the Greater Dublin area was 1,904,806.

John Kemp Starley British businessman

John Kemp Starley (1854–1901) was an English inventor and industrialist who is widely considered the inventor of the modern bicycle, and also originator of the name Rover.

Safety bicycle

A safety bicycle is a type of bicycle that became very popular beginning in the late 1880s as an alternative to the penny-farthing ("ordinary") and is now the most common type of bicycle. Early bicycles of this style were known as safety bicycles because they were noted for, and marketed as, being safer than the high wheelers they were replacing. Even though modern bicycles use a similar design, the term is rarely used today and may be considered obsolete.

J B Dunlop sold out in 1895 and took no further interest in the tyre or rubber business. His remaining business interest was a local drapery.

Pneumatic tyres

Dunlop's first pneumatic bicycle tyre National Museum of Scotland Dunlop first pneumatic bicycle tyre.JPG
Dunlop's first pneumatic bicycle tyre National Museum of Scotland
Dunlop on a bicycle c. 1915 John Boyd Dunlop (c1915).jpg
Dunlop on a bicycle c. 1915

In October 1887, John Boyd Dunlop developed the first practical pneumatic or inflatable tyre for his son's tricycle and, using his knowledge and experience with rubber, in the yard of his home in Belfast fitted it to a wooden disc 96 centimetres across. [3] The tyre was an inflated tube of sheet rubber. He then took his wheel and a metal wheel from his son's tricycle and rolled both across the yard together. The metal wheel stopped rolling but the pneumatic continued until it hit a gatepost and rebounded. Dunlop then put pneumatics on both rear wheels of the tricycle. That too rolled better, and Dunlop moved on to larger tyres for a bicycle "with even more startling results." [4] He tested that in Cherryvale sports ground, South Belfast, and a patent was granted on 7 December 1888. Unknown to Dunlop another Scot, Robert William Thomson from Stonehaven, had patented a pneumatic tyre in 1847.

Robert William Thomson Scottish businessman and inventor

Robert William Thomson PRSSA FRSE (1822–1873), from Stonehaven, Scotland, was the acknowledged inventor of the fountain pen and original inventor of the pneumatic tyre.

Stonehaven town in Aberdeenshire, Scotland

Stonehaven is a town in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. It lies on Scotland's northeast coast and had a population of 11,602 at the 2011 Census. After the demise of the town of Kincardine, which was gradually abandoned after the destruction of its royal castle in the Wars of Independence, the Scottish Parliament made Stonehaven the successor county town of Kincardineshire. Stonehaven had grown around an Iron Age fishing village, now the "Auld Toon", and expanded inland from the seaside. As late as the 16th century, old maps indicate the town was called Stonehyve,Stonehive, Pont also adding the alternative Duniness. It is known informally to locals as Stoney.

Willie Hume demonstrated the supremacy of Dunlop's tyres in 1889, winning the tyre's first-ever races in Ireland and then England. [5] [6] The captain of the Belfast Cruisers Cycling Club, he became the first member of the public to purchase a bicycle fitted with pneumatic tyres, so Dunlop suggested he should use them in a race. On 18 May 1889 Hume won all four cycling events at the Queen's College Sports in Belfast, and a short while later in Liverpool, won all but one of the cycling events. [6] Among the losers were sons of the president of the Irish Cyclists' Association, Harvey Du Cros. Seeing an opportunity, Du Cros built a personal association with J B Dunlop, and together they set up a company which acquired his rights to his patent.

Two years after he was granted the patent, Dunlop was officially informed that it was invalid as Scottish inventor Robert William Thomson (1822–1873), had patented the idea in France in 1846 and in the US in 1847. (see Tyres.) To capitalise on pneumatic tyres for bicycles, Dunlop and Du Cros resuscitated a Dublin-listed company and renamed it Pneumatic Tyre and Booth's Cycle Agency. Dunlop retired in 1895. In 1896 Du Cros sold their whole bicycle tyre business to British financier Terah Hooley for £3 million. Hooley arranged some new window-dressing, titled board members, etc., and re-sold the company to the public for £5 million. Du Cros remained head of the business until his death. Early in the 20th century it was renamed Dunlop Rubber.

Though he did not participate after 1895, Dunlop's pneumatic tyre did arrive at a crucial time in the development of road transport. His commercial production of cycle tyres began in late 1890 in Belfast, but the production of car tyres did not begin until 1900, well after his retirement. J B Dunlop did not make any great fortune by his invention.

Death and legacy

The Dunlop logo is widely recognised around the world DunlopLogo.png
The Dunlop logo is widely recognised around the world

John Boyd Dunlop died at his home in Dublin's Ballsbridge in 1921 and is buried in Deans Grange Cemetery.

Although the Dunlop Pneumatic Tyre Company no longer exists as a corporate entity, the Dunlop name lives on in a number of Dunlop-branded products, including automotive, aerospatial, industrial and sporting products around the world. The Dunlop brand commonly appears as a corporate sponsor of international sporting events such as motor racing and tennis matches. [7]

From the 1980s, Dunlop was commemorated in Northern Ireland when his image featured on the £10 banknote issued by the Northern Bank as part of its Inventor Series. [8] The notes have been re-issued several times, and the banknotes bearing Dunlop's likeness (now issued by the Danske Bank) are still in circulation today. [9] [10]

In 2005, Dunlop was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame. [11]

An avenue in the city of Campinas, in southeast Brazil, is also named after him; that is because a Dunlop tyre factory was established there in 1953.

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John Dunlop may refer to:

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Dunlop Rubber was a multinational company involved in the manufacture of various rubber goods. Its business was founded in 1889 by Harvey du Cros and he involved John Boyd Dunlop who had (re-)invented and developed the first pneumatic tyre. It was one of the first multinationals, and under du Cros and, after him, under Eric Geddes, grew to be one of the largest British industrial companies. J B Dunlop had dropped any ties to it well before his name was used for any part of the business. The business and manufactory was founded in Upper Stephens Street in Dublin. A plaque marks the site, which is now part of the head office of the Irish multinational departments store brand, Dunnes Stores.

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Arthur Du Cros British politician

Sir Arthur Philip Du Cros, 1st Baronet was a British industrialist and politician.

Harvey du Cros British politician

William Harvey du Cros was a Dublin-born financier, the founder of the pneumatic tire industry, based on the discovery of John Boyd Dunlop, a Scots-born Belfast veterinary surgeon. Just 65 inches tall and a noted athlete in his youth, he remained an enthusiastic cyclist and a skilful boxer into his middle age. He was briefly a Conservative Party politician of England.

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  1. Sir Arthur Du Cros, Bt, Wheels of Fortune, a salute to pioneers, Chapman & Hall, London 1938
  2. B. W. Best, Dunlop, John Boyd (1840–1921), rev. Trevor I. Williams, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
  3. The Bicycle, UK, 21 July 1943, p3
  4. The Bicycle, UK, 21 July 1943, p3
  5. The Golden Book of Cycling – William Hume, 1938. Archive maintained by 'The Pedal Club'. Archived 3 April 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  6. 1 2 Dunlop, What sets Dunlop apart, History, 1889
  7. Wood, Zoe (27 December 2016). "Sports Direct sells Dunlop for $137m". the Guardian. Archived from the original on 4 April 2018. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  8. "Pam West British Notes - 1988Torrens - SPECIMEN - 1988 - B - 7 digits - J B Dunlop obverse. Satellite dish, computer system reverse. NR113". Archived from the original on 4 April 2018. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  9. "Northern Bank 10 Pounds, 2004". Ron Wise's Banknoteworld. Archived from the original on 31 October 2008. Retrieved 17 October 2008.
  10. Schmidt, Tracy, ed. (2017). Standard Catalog of World Paper Money, Modern Issues, 1961-Present. F+W Media. pp. 794–5. ISBN   9781440247958 . Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  11. "John Dunlop". Automotive Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on 4 April 2018. Retrieved 4 April 2018.