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Biography of John Boyd Dunlop Inventor of Pneumatic Tyres

Inventor: John Boyd Dunlop

Most Famous Invention: Pneumatic Tyres


Biography : John Boyd Dunlop was born in 1840 in the town of Ayrshire, Scotland.  As a young man he became a veterinary surgeon in partnership with his brother, a profession which he practiced first in Edinburgh, Scotland and sometime later in Belfast, Ireland.

          He was the inventor of pneumatic tyres, sort of.  By that I mean that while he did invent them, and succeeded in patening them, someone else, a man by the name of Robert Thompson, had also invented them and since Thompson’s patent was the earliest registered, John Boyd Dunlap’s paten was revoked.

          The story of how John Boyd Dunlap came to make pneumatic tyres in the first place is an interesting one.  It was quite a leap from veterinary medicine to working to perfect some sort of air filled rubber tyres.  It seems that Dunlap’s son, a small boy at the time, complained about how uncomfortable it was riding his tricycle on the cobblestone pavement outside his home and much preferred riding in the house for comfort but enjoyed the adventure of riding outside. 

          Dunlap’s son asked him if he could make the outside ride more comfortable and Dunlap accepted the challenge of the task.


John Boyd Dunlop

John Boyd Dunlop

He experimented with different ways of using a rubber hose.  He eventually slit it and fitted it onto the wheels of the tricycle, filling it with air.  He gave the tricycle back to his son who took it for a trial run and declared it a complete success.

          Although Dunlap couldn’t claim to be the original inventor of the pneumatic tyre, he did set out to make the best pneumatic tyres.
He was able to patent his particular model of the pneumatic tyre in Great Britain in 1888 and later was able to patent it in the United States in 1890.

          Dunlap went into business with an Irish business man by the name of  W. H. DuCros and together they formed the Dunlap Rubber Company which became an international business.  Dunlap pneumatic tyres were widely used on both bicycles and early automobiles but the biggest success that Dunlap valued was the success that he achieved in his young son’s eyes of being able to give him the best tricycle of all the kids in the neighborhood.

John Boyd Dunlop on his pneumatic tyres bicycle

John Boyd Dunlop on his pneumatic tyres bicycle

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