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Robert William Thomson


1822 - 1873

Engineer and Inventor. Born into a family of merchants in Stonehaven, Thomson served engineering apprenticeships in Aberdeen and Dundee, before working for a time in Glasgow and settling in Edinburgh. He invented the vulcanised rubber pneumatic tyre. He patented his invention in 1845, and it was successfully tested in London, however it was abandoned because it was thought too expensive for common use. The tyre was re-invented by John Dunlop in 1888. Thomson's invention is commemorated by a plaque in his native Stonehaven. He also patented the fountain pen (1849), a steam traction engine (1867), the sprung mattress and developed a technique for electrically firing explosive charges, which he used in the demolition of Dunbar Castle.

In 1852, he travelled to Java and served as an agent for an engineering company until 1862. There he developed a more efficient machine for refining sugar, a portable steam crane and a hydraulic dry dock. He returned to Edinburgh and established a series of patents for his inventions.

He died at his home on Moray Place in the New Town of Edinburgh and was buried in Dean Cemetery.


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