Papers of Professor Henry Dyer, 1848-1918, alumnus, engineer and educationalist, Glasgow, Scotland and Japan

Scope and Content

  • Biographical Documentation, c1800-1918;
  • Scrapbook, 1902-1958;
  • Photographs, c1880s-c1910.

Administrative / Biographical History

Henry Dyer graduated BSc from the University of Glasgow 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), and 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, and 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 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 (CE). 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 taught by 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. Upon graduating and on the recommendation of his former professor, Macquorn Rankine he took up the appointment of Principal, 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 Yozo, 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 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 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. Throughout his remaining career he continued to receive accolades from academic and governmental bodies in Japan. In  1902  he was conferred the position of Emiritus Professor in the University of Tokyo, and in  1908  he was conferred the Second Class of the Order of the Sacred Treasure, both in recognition of services to Japan since his return to Scotland. In  1915  he was awarded the national Degree of Kõgaku Hakushi (Doctor of Engineering) by the Minister of Education, Tokyo, Japan.

Dyer graduated DSc in  1890 , and the University conferred him with an LLD in  1910 for his services to education.

He produced a number of written works, initially pamphlets then more sizeable works including his first major book The Evolution of Industry (1895). His later writings evidenced a pro-Japanese outlook in Dai Nippon: the Britain of the East (1905), and Japan in World Politics: a Study in International Dynamics (1909). In 1874 Henry Dyer married Marie Euphemie Aquart Ferguson (1848-1921) in Yokohama. They had four sons, one of whom died in infancy, and a daughter. Dyer died on 25 September 1918 at home in Glasgow, and was buried at the Glasgow Necropolis.


Arranged by record type and then chronologically within record series.

Access Information


Acquisition Information

Deposit : Alexander Crowe : 20/03/2017 : ACCN 4106

Other Finding Aids

Digital file level list available in searchroom

Alternative Form Available

No known copies

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

None which affect the use of this material

Conditions Governing Use

Applications for permission to quote should be sent to the  Duty Archivist

Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use and condition of documents

Appraisal Information

This material has been appraised in line with standard GB 248 procedures


None expected

Related Material

NRA 35909 Dyer: lecture notes, misc papers rel to Glasgow School Board, 1871-1918

GB 249 T-GED Papers of Sir Patrick Geddes, 1854-1932

Location of Originals

This material is original


Checkland, OliveBritain's Encounter with Meiji Japan 1868-1912. UK: Palgrave Macmillan , 1989 .

Additional Information

Description compiled in line with the following international standards: International Council on Archives, ISAD(G) Second Edition, September 1999and National Council on Archives, Rules for the construction of personal, place and corporate names

Scotland is the location of all place names in the administrative/biographical history element, unless otherwise stated.

Fonds level description compiled by Florence Dall, Archives Assistant, 8 December 2017. Lower level descriptions compiled by Kath Roper-Caldbeck, Cataloguing Volunteer, 11 September 2018

Geographical Names