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A leap of faith- Dyson Foundation

The small market town of Malmesbury has a fine history dating back to its significant position within the Anglo Saxon world and its role as a centre for learning in the Middle Ages. Today its star is set to rise again with the massive investment being made in the area by one of the UK’s leading industrial designers who has located the international headquarters for his company, Dyson Ltd, in the town.

A story dating back to the early 11th century links two significant episodes in the town’s history, and neatly spans a thousand years.

The eminent medieval historian, William of Malmesbury, writes in 1125 about an enthusiastic young monk who leapt from the tower of the town’s Abbey in an attempt to fly. William records that in Eilmer’s youth he had read and believed the Greek fable of Daedalus. Thus, Eilmer fixed wings to his hands and feet and launched himself from the top of a tower at Malmesbury Abbey (estimated date for this adventure – 1010AD approx.)

In itself, this is a wonderful story about curiosity and inventiveness which deserves some reflection. The town now has another bold adventurer in the shape of Sir James Dyson who has, in a different era and for different purposes, pushed ahead with ideas ahead of his time with remarkable success. Best known for his original ideas on the working of the vacuum cleaner it took Dyson from 1979 till 1984 to perfect his prototype for a cyclonic vacuum based cleaner and until 1993 before he could set up his own production facility in Chippenham. In contrast to market research, the DC01 became the biggest selling vacuum cleaner in the UK in just 18 months and by 2001, the DC01 made up 47% of the upright vacuum cleaner market. The company has gone on to research and develop a range of household goods using cutting edge technology, with its eyes now set on the electric car.

Today Sir James has taken another bold step, that of setting up an undergraduate degree course taught on the site of the Dyson headquarters in Malmesbury. The students will work for three days a week within the Global Engineering team and study for a Bachelor of Engineering degree accredited by the University of Warwick for the rest of the week.

Dyson’s motivation for this ‘on the job’ form of training is his belief:

“I learnt by doing, by being involved in complex projects that forced me to find my own solutions. This spirit has carried through everything we do and will underpin everything we teach at the Dyson Institute.”

We wish them all the very best in this enterprise!