Dickinson, Henry Winram 1870 - 1952

English; British

(1870-1952), mechanical engineer, President of the Newcomen Society

Henry Winram Dickinson was born at Ulverston, Lancashire on the 28th August 1870. He went to Manchester grammar school with a foundation scholarship. After a two-year engineering course at the University of Manchester, and four years' apprenticeship (1888–92) at the Parkhead steel works of William Beardmore & Co. Ltd, Glasgow, he became a draughtsman at the Glasgow Iron and Steel Company's Wishaw works and then assistant engineer at the Frodingham Iron and Steel Company.

In 1895 he was appointed by open competition junior assistant in the science department, South Kensington Museum, London, which became the Science Museum in 1909. On 15 June 1897 he married Edith, and they had one son, Henry Douglas Dickinson (1899–1969), who was later professor of economics at Bristol, 1951–64. From 1915 to 1918 Dickinson was secretary of the munitions inventions panel at the Ministry of Munitions. When he returned to the Science Museum in 1924 he was promoted to keeper of mechanical engineering. He supervised the erection of the original Newcomen type and Watt beam engines and many other historical exhibits in the museum's new eastern block, opened by George V in 1928.

After he retired from the Science Museum in 1930, his main interest was the Newcomen Society. During his career he presented twenty-three papers to it, and two to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, of which he was a member for over fifty years. Dickinson was honorary secretary of the Newcomen Society until 1951, except for two years (1932–4) when he was president.

Dickinson was the author of definitive books on his favourite subjects: the biographies Robert Fulton (1913), John Wilkinson (1914), James Watt (1936), and Matthew Boulton (1937); the two memorial volumes James Watt and the Steam Engine (with Rhys Jenkins, 1927) and Richard Trevithick (with Arthur Titley, 1934); also A Short History of the Steam Engine (1939). His series of articles in The Engineer during 1948 was republished after his death as a memorial volume entitled Water Supply of Greater London (1954).

He died at his home, 20 St James Road, Purley, Surrey, on 21 February 1952.