Henry Dyer Scotland Japan

Biography of Henry Dyer

Henry Dyer
Henry Dyer

Henry Dyer graduated BSc from the University in 1873, and became an influential engineer and educationalist who played an important role in revolutionising the Japanese higher education curriculum.

Dyer was born 16 August 1848 in Bothwell, Lanarkshire, the son of John Dyer, a foundry labourer, and Margaret Morton. He was an apprentice engineer under Thomas Kennedy and A. C. Kirk at James Aitken & Co., Cranstonhill, Glasgow. John Butt's book, 'John Anderson's Legacy: The University of Strathclyde and its Antecedents 1796-1996' (Tuckwell, 1996) indicates that Dyer attended evening classes at Anderson's University (now the University of Strathclyde) from 1863 to 1868 (p.87).

Dyer enrolled in the Arts Faculty of the University of Glasgow in 1868 aged 20. In his first year he attended Natural Philosophy taught by Professor William Thomson (Lord Kelvin). He won a prize "For General Eminence in the Business of the Session, voted by the Students". He also took Senior Mathematics taught by Professor Hugh Blackburn. He won a prize "For General Eminence in the Exercises and Examinations during the Session". In his second year he took Natural Philosophy again. He also took Civil Engineering and Mechanics taught by Professor Macquorn Rankine and received a class prize for written exercises. In 1870 he was awarded the Whitworth Scholarship.

In his third year he took the Humanity class taught by Professor George G Ramsay, Junior Greek taught by Professor Edmund L Lushington and Senior Civil Engineering and Mechanics. He received the Walker prize for an examination in writing, a class prize for written exercises and was awarded the Certificate of Engineering (C.E.). In his fourth year he took the Senior Humanity class, Senior Greek, and the Natural Philosophy classes Geology and Zoology taught by Professor William Thomson (Lord Kelvin). He received a First Class certificate in Geology passing with 80 percent. He was top of the Natural Philosophy Higher Mathematical class. He received the Arnot Prize for the encouragement of the study of the experimental physics in the faculty of arts worth 15 pounds.

In his fifth year he took Logic and Rhetoric taught by Professor John Veitch, Moral Philosophy taught by Professor Edward Caird and English Language and Literature Professor John Nichol. He received the Watt prize of ten pounds for the best essay on "The Influence of the Newtonian Principles on the Progress of Science during the Eighteenth Century". 1 May 1873 he graduated with a Bachelor of Sciences from the Engineering Department and a Master of Arts.

On the recommendation of his former professor, Macquorn Rankine, he took up the appointment of Principal of, and Professor of Civil and Mechanical Engineering at the Imperial College of Engineering, Tokyo, a new institution created to educate generations of engineers who would contribute to the modernisation of Japan. Alongside Yamao Yōzō, Japanese Minister of Public Works in the first Meiji era government, Dyer created a new and innovative curriculum aimed at both theoretical and hands on training. Upon graduation, many of the Japanese students were awarded Japanese Government funding to undertake further study abroad, many of them attending the University of Glasgow and gaining work experience in the industries of Scotland.

The Japanese government appointed Dyer to the Order of the Rising Sun (third class) for his contribution to engineering education and as Director of Engineering works within Japan. On his resignation from the University of Tokyo in 1882, Dyer was also made Honorary Principal of the Imperial College of Engineering in recognition of his upwards of nine years service as Principal of, and Professor of Civil and Mechanical Engineering.

On his return to Glasgow, Dyer remained a proponent of and friend to the many Japanese students who would continue to train at the University of Glasgow, and in 1901, at Dyer's request, the University Court decreed that Japanese was to be an entry subject in the preliminary examination for aspiring students.

Dyer went on to graduate DSc in 1890, and University conferred him with an LLD in 1910 for his services to education.


Printed Materials

  • O. Checkland, Britain's encounter with Meiji Japan, 1868–1912 (1989) ·

Archival Materials

  • GUAS Court Papers 21 Sept 1886
  • R1/7/1 Graduation Albums BSc 1873-1942


Henry Dyer
Born 16 August 1848.
Died 25 September 1918.
GU Degrees: MA, 1873; BSc, 1873; DSc, 1890; LLD, 1910;
University Link: Alumnus, Graduate, Honorary Graduate
Occupation categories: enginers
Search for this person in the DNB
English snippet: Influential engineer and educationalist in Japan
Record last updated: 9th Aug 2019

Country Associations

Scotland Scotland, Bothwell
Place of Birth

Scotland Scotland, Glasgow
Place of Death

Japan Japan, Tokyo

University Connections

University Roles