Scottish fact of the day: Two inventors and the story of the pneumatic tyre

John Dunlop's son, on the first bicycle to have pneumatic tyres. Picture: Getty

John Dunlop's son, on the first bicycle to have pneumatic tyres. Picture: Getty


THE story of the pneumatic or air-filled tyre in fact involves two famous Scottish inventors. Robert William Thomson from Stonehaven and John Boyd Dunlop from Dreghorn

Thomson was only 23 when he was granted a patent for his invention in 1846. Thomson’s tyre’s consisted of a thin piece of Indian rubber which was inflated forming a cushion of air to make travel on horse drawn coaches more comfortable.

However the materials were not freely available at the time so the Kincardineshire inventor became frustrated with the project and returned to developing a solid rubber tyre.

43 years later, John Boyd Dunlop - one of the founders of the famous rubber company that bears his name - invented his own version of the pneumatic tyre.

His invention came about as a consequence of trying to make his son’s bicycle more comfortable to ride. Dunlop patented his pneumatic bicycle tyre in 1888, two years later however his patent was announced invalid and that Thomson was to be seen as the original inventor.

In 1889 Willie Hume, the captain of ‘Belfast Cruisers Cycling Club’, became the first member of the public to purchase a bike fitted with the new tyres. Dunlop suggested he use the new tyres while racing, they gave Hume such an advantage that he went on to win races all over the UK.




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