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Dines, William (1855-1927)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0117 MS 681
Held at: Royal Society
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Full title: Dines, William (1855-1927)
Date(s): 1879-1927
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 1 box
Name of creator(s): Dines | William | 1855-1927 | meteorologist


Administrative/Biographical history:

William Dines was born on 5 August 1855, son of George Dines, inventor of a hygrometer and an active Fellow of the Meteorological Society. Never robust, he was the only son to survive childhood. He attended Woodcote House School in Windlesham. He learned engineering as a pupil at the Nine Elm Works of the South Western Railway, and after completing his apprenticeship went to Corpus Christi College in Cambridge, taking his BA degree in 1881 as twentieth wrangler. In 1882 he remained at Cambridge as a mathematical coach. He continued to teach mathematics, first as assistant to an army coach, and then in correspondence classes, but subsequently his meteorological work absorbed all his time. The Tay Bridge disaster of 28 December 1879, when a train crossing the bridge was carried away with the bridge into the river by a squall of wind, claimed attention of both meterologists and engineers to decide what allowance should be made for wind force on engineers' structures. Dines became the most active member of a Wind-Force Committee appointed by the Meteorological Society in 1886, revising the equation for wind-force from three 'significant figures' with a tolerance for 40 per cent to a single figure with very little error. He also designed the pressure tube anemograph for measuring wind velocity, including a device for recording the direction as well as velocity, hence providing a record of wind indispensable for the study of dynamical meterology. In his investigation of the structure of the upper air, Dines was equally successful, being the prime mover in establishing a committee for the investigation of the characteristics of the free atmosphere by the Royal Meteorological Society and the British Association in 1901. Dines began with diamond shaped kites of his own design at Oxshott, and moved to the Chiltern Hills near Watlington. Here he developed the use of sounding balloons, maintaining the investigation with kites at the same time. He was helped by his assistant H W Baker, and other stations were set up by C J P Cave of Ditcham Park, Dr G C Simpson at the experimental station at Glossop Moor in Derbyshire, S H R Salmon with a kite station at Brighton, Captain C H Ley RE with sounding balloons at Ross in Herefordshire and subsequently at Bird Hill, Limerick. Later Mungret College in Limerick became a regular station for work in the upper air. By 1913 the scientific value of the use of sounding-balloons had been recognised, and in 1914 Dines acquired the property at Benson (Wallingford, Berkshire) with the assent of the Meteorological Office. During the war the various centres of meteorological activity co-operated through the Meteorological Sub-Committee of the Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. The work at Benson was significant both in experimental work and in co-ordinating and discussing results. After the war L F Richardson joined Dines, and they worked on investigating solar radiation. In 1922 Dines resigned the official charge of the observatory, his son L H G Dines becoming Assistant Superintendent to take charge of the official work, until in 1923 it was transferred to Kew Observatory. His main efforts of investigation were wind-measurement, investigation of the upper air, and solar and terrestrial radiation; but he was equally at home with the design of instruments, co-ordination and discussion of results, and consideration of current theory. He died in 1927.


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers of William Dines relating to his school years, his years at Benson, and correspondence relating to instruments and other matters with his sons.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Conditions governing access:


Conditions governing reproduction:

No publication without written permission. Apply to Archivist in the first instance.

Finding aids:


Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Donated in 1988 to the Royal Society by W S Pike.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Department of Manuscripts and University Archives, Cambridge University Library, correspondence to Sir George Stokes (Ref: Add 7342, 7656).

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Description produced by the Royal Society and revised by Rachel Kemsley as part of the RSLP AIM25 project. Source: Who Was Who.

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
Created 17/05/2002, modified 27/05/2002, revised Sep 2002

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