Sir James Dyson – from vacuum cleaners to ventilators

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The long list of products designed by billionaire entrepreneur Sir James Dyson will now include ventilators.

In an email to staff, Sir James said the Government placed an order for 10,000 “CoVent” ventilators, designed in response to shortages amid the coronavirus outbreak.

A further 5,000 ventilators will be donated to global efforts, he added.

The inventor is best known for his redesign of household vacuum cleaners, creating his first bagless vacuum nearly four decades ago.

Alongside a series of other innovations, the significant success of his range of cleaners propelled him into becoming one of the richest people in the UK.

Sir James, 72, was educated at Gresham’s School in the Norfolk town of Holt before studying at the Royal College of Art.

In the 1970s, the engineer designed a wheelbarrow with a large ball in place of a front wheel, known as the ballbarrow, before later moving into vacuum cleaners and household appliances.

James Dyson & vacuum cleaner
Sir James with one of his vacuums in 1997 (Fiona Hanson/PA Archive)

The success of the model on the Japanese market enabled him to start his eponymous company in Wiltshire nearly a decade later, leading to the creation of dozens of vacuums.

Prior to his home breakthrough, Sir James said he lived in “overdraft hell” for 23 years as he fought to protect his patents and expand into the market.

In 1993, he opened his factory and research centre in Malmesbury, Wiltshire while his first vacuum cleaner arrived on the British market to huge success.

Sir James’ and his family’s wealth is now estimated at £12.5 billion, placing them as some of the richest people in the UK.

The inventor received staunch criticism in 2002 when it was announced the domestic appliance giant would move most of its manufacturing to Malaysia.

This was often raised during the campaign before the Brexit referendum, as the head of the Dyson company was a public supporter of leaving the EU.

Since the early 90s, Sir James’ company has created appliances such as fans, hand-dryers and hairdryers, in addition to dozens of bagless vacuums.

Audience at Buckingham Palace
Queen Elizabeth II presented Sir James Dyson with the insignia of members of the Order of Merit in 2015 (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

The company chair said engineers had developed a “fantastic electric car” in the project launched in 2017, but it was not commercially viable.

The inventor’s work has been widely recognised, including with an Order of Merit from the Queen in 2015, following a knighthood in the 2007 New Year’s Honours list.

While manufacturing was mostly moved to Asia, the original Wiltshire campus of the company contains the Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology, which offers Bachelors in Engineering degrees

The technology tycoon has invested £31.5 million into the Institute, which does not charge tuition fees.

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