Sir James Dewer - The Kingdom Of Fife

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Sir James Dewer

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Inventor Of The 'Thermos' Flask

Sir James Dewar FRS was a Scottish scientist whose talents, while varied, tended towards the liquefaction of so-called permanent gases and where, over a period of a quarter century was sufficiently able to produce many of these gases in liquid form and at an industrial rate.

He was born at Kincardine in Fife in 1842 and was the youngest of six sons. His parents died when he was just fifteen years of age and was educated at Dollar Academy and the University of Edinburgh.

Sir James Dewar was born in Kincardine in Fife on 20th September 842, the youngest of six boys. He lost his parents at the age of 15 and was educated at Dollar Academy and the University of Edinburgh.
Although he held many notable positions during his life, and while serving on a the Committee of Explosives, he and Frederick Augustus Abel developed cordite; a smokeless gunpowder alternative  that was quickly adopted by military forces throughout the World.

His name is widely known in connection with his work on the liquefaction of gases in which his researches were often conducted at temperatures approaching absolute zero or zero degrees Kelvin (equates to about minus 273 degrees centrigrade or minus 460 degrees on the Fahrenheit scale). In current times, continuedresearch in this field has shown that solid matter behaves differently when subjected to such intense freezing and introduces quantum aspects of electrical superconductivity and superfluidity. Dewer'a interest in this branch of physics and chemistry dates back at least as far as 1874, when he discussed the "Latent Heat of Liquid Gases" before the British Association.

By 1891 he had designed and built, at the Royal Institution, machinery which yielded liquid oxygen in industrial quantities, and towards the end of that year he showed that both liquid oxygen and liquid ozone were strongly attracted by a magnet. About 1892, the idea occurred to him of using vacuum-jacketed vessels for the storage of liquid gases and initially became known as the Dewer flask.

The vacuum flask was so efficient at keeping heat out that it was found possible to preserve the liquids for comparatively long periods, making greater examination of their properties possible.

Sadly, Dewar did not profit from the widespread adoption of his vacuum flask since he had failed to patent it and he lost a court action against Thermos Gmbh of Germany concerning their adoption and commercial exploitation of his design and research. While Dewer was recognised as the inventor, and because he did not patent his invention, there was no legitimate way to stop Thermos from using the design. Good marketing and widespread use led to global usage in which Thermos profitted handsomely and where even the trade name came to represent the vacuum flask invented by Sir James Dewer. He died on the 27th March 1923.

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