John William Dunne

John William Dunne
John William Dunne

John William Dunne in his D.5 biplane at Eastchurch, 14 June 1910
Born 1875
Curragh Camp, County Kildare, Ireland
Died 24 August 1949
Banbury England
Occupation Aviator
Spouse Cicely Marion Violet Joan Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes
Children John Geoffrey Christopher Dunne
Rosemary Elizabeth Cecily Dunne
Parents General Sir John Hart Dunne
Julia Elizabeth Dunne

John William Dunne FRAeS (1875–1949) was an Anglo-Irish aeronautical engineer and author. In the field of parapsychology, he achieved a preeminence through his theories on dreams and authoring books preoccupied with the question of the nature of time. As a pioneering aeronautical engineer in the early years of the 20th century, Dunne worked on many early military aircraft, concentrating on tailless designs, producing inherently stable aircraft.



John William Dunne was born at Curragh Camp, County Kildare, Ireland,[1] the third son of General Sir John Hart Dunne KCB (1835–1924) and Julia Elizabeth Dunne, Anglo-Irish aristocrats. His later life and career was in England. From an early age, he was interested in scientific areas, and inspired by a Jules Verne novel, at the age of 13, he envisioned a flying machine that needed no steering. He was particularly interested in the flight of the Zanortia seed, whose parachute seeds fly through the air as they are deposited by the wind.

Military career

In 1900 Dunne joined the Imperial Yeomanry and fought in the Second Boer War as a sub-lieutenant under General Roberts. He was invalided home with typhoid. While on medical leave in 1901, he began to study the science of aerodynamics and flight earnestly, first observing birds in flight. Encouraged by family friend, H.G. Wells, he designed and built a number of test models based on a "tailless" configuration.


Called back to serve a second tour in 1903, Dunne was diagnosed with heart disease, causing him to again return from the Boer War. Despite poor health, he continued his study of flight and by 1904, was ready to proceed to the construction of gliders and eventually powered aircraft to prove his theories of flight control and stability of a tailless design. Assigned to the Army Balloon Factory in South Farnborough in 1905, he sought out the assistance of Colonel John Capper, the unit's commanding officer. With Capper as a mentor, Dunne had an experienced engineer who could help with the structural design of the first British military flying machine. After months of building and testing models, all featuring a distinctive "arrowhead" shape, Dunne built a passenger-carrying glider.

The D.1 was constructed under great secrecy, and in July 1907, was shipped by rail to the village of Blair Atholl in the Scottish Highlands for flight testing. With Colonel Capper as passenger, the D.1 flew one successful eight-second flight conducted in the hills north of the village. Dunne crashed at the end of the flight and Capper was slightly injured but the experimental glider had demonstrated the stability Dunne considered so essential.

Experiments supported by the British Army Council during 1907 and 1908 continued with the D.1-B powered airplane (a modified D.1-A), crashing on its first flight. The D.2 training glider, designed in 1907, was not constructed while the Dunne-Huntington powered triplane, designed in 1907–1908, was flown successfully in 1911. The D.3 man-carrying glider was flown successfully in 1908 and the D.4 powered airplane, flown in 1908, had limited success (in Dunne's words: "more a hopper than a flyer").[2]

In 1909 the War Office stopped any official support for heavier-than-air flight, and he left the Balloon Factory. With his friends' financial investment, he formed a small company, the Blair Atholl Aeroplane Syndicate, to continue his experiments. By 1910, the Dunne D.5, a vast improvement over previous designs, was completed.

Like previous models, the D.5 was a tailless V-shaped biplane, with sharply swept back wings. A central nacelle housed the pilot (and passenger) along with a rear-mounted engine that drove two pusher propellers. The swept wings provided inherent stability incorporating a wash-out by decreasing the angle of incidence gradually from root to tip.

On 20 December 1910, Dunne demonstrated the extraordinary stability of the D.5 to an amazed audience that included Orville Wright. He continued his design efforts for another three years, until ill health finally forced his retirement from flying and experiments. In recognition of his achievements as a pioneering designer, Dunne was invested as a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society (F.R.Ae.S.). Although his design principles for producing inherent stability was proven, aircraft design proceeded along an entirely different path.

In the early 1920s Dunne assisted Geoffrey Hill in designing the tailless Westland Pterodactyl.


He died on 24 August 1949.

Dunne aircraft designs


A Dunne-style biplane in the US Army, c. 1917

Dunne created the first practical and stable tailless aircraft, which also first used the swept-wing planform.

  • Dunne D.1 (1907, flown as a glider; the powered version was badly damaged on the launch apparatus.)
  • Dunne D.2 (proposed smaller glider version of the Dunne-Huntington biplane, not built.)
  • Dunne-Huntington biplane (design 1906-1907, flying 1910,[4] modified and improved 1913; large canard foreplane leading some to refer to it as a triplane.[5])
  • Dunne-Capper monoplane (1907, flown as glider; powered in 1911.)
  • Dunne D.3 (1908 glider.)
  • Dunne D.4 (1908, powered biplane using D.1 wings. Achieved short hops.)
  • Dunne D.5 (1910, powered biplane; built by Short Brothers, the alternatively named[citation needed] Short-Dunne 5 was the first tailless aircraft to fly. It flew well but following an accident, was rebuilt in modified form as the D.8.[6])
  • Dunne D.6 (1911 monoplane.)
  • Dunne D.7, (1911-1912 monoplane. The D.7-bis was a two-seater version of the D.7.)
  • Dunne D.8 (1912, rebuilt and modified D5, following an accident; flew from Eastchurch to Paris in 1913; license built by Nieuport and Burgess.)
  • Dunne D.9 (1913 monoplane; crashed first flight; some sources claim the D.9 was a biplane design and five examples were under construction through 1912-1913.[5])
  • Dunne D.10 (1912, shorter span version of D.8.)
  • Burgess-Dunne (D.8 and derived variants manufactured under license in U.S; land- and seaplane versions; flew with US and Canadian forces.)

Philosophical work

Dunne believed that he experienced precognitive dreams. The first he records occurred in 1898, in which he dreamed of the time on his watch before waking up and checking it.[7] Twenty such experiences, some quite dramatic, led him to undertake a scientific investigation into the phenomenon, and from this he developed a new theory of consciousness and time.

Through years of experimentation with precognitive dreams and hypnagogic states Dunne posited that our experience of time as linear was an illusion brought about by human consciousness. Dunne argued that past, present and future were in fact simultaneous and only experienced sequentially because of our mental perception of them. It was his belief that in the dream state, the mind was not shackled in this way and was able to perceive events in the past and future with equal facility.

Dunne's landmark An Experiment with Time (1927) recounts his own experiments with dreaming, from which he concluded that precognitive elements frequently occur in dreams. The book has been frequently reprinted. In The Serial Universe (1934), The New Immortality (1938), Nothing Dies (1940) and other works, he further elaborated on the concept of "serialism," where he postulated that an infinite regress, or series of dimensions exist within time, giving any present moment extensions into the past and future.

Dunne's work provided a scientific explanation for ideas of consciousness being explored on a wide scale at the time. Such figures as Aldous Huxley and J. B. Priestley enthusiastically embraced his ideas. Priestley based his plays Time and the Conways, An Inspector Calls and Dangerous Corner, on them. There are also parallels between Dunne's theory of Time and that put forward in T. S. Eliot's Four Quartets although whether Eliot was directly influenced by Dunne is not clear.[8][9]

Published works

  • Sunshine and the Dry-Fly (1924)
  • An Experiment with Time (1927)
  • The Serial Universe (1934)
  • The League of Northwest Europe (1936)
  • The Jumping Lions of Borneo (1937)
  • The New Immortality (1938)
  • An Experiment with St. George (1938)
  • Nothing Dies (1940)
  • Intrusions? (1955)

Later years

Dunne died on 24 August 1949, at age 73, in Banbury, England.


  1. ^ 1911 Census of St George, London, RG14/442, John William Dunne, Belgrave Mansions, Belgrave, London.
  2. ^ a b "Correspondence: Letter from Science Museum." Flight, 17 June 1955, p. 852. Quote:The following is an extract from a note in our records written and signed by J. W. Dunne on June 28th, 1928.
  3. ^ Goodall and Tagg 2001, pp. 100–106.
  4. ^ "British Flyers at Sheppey — A side view of Professor A. K. Huntington's machine." Flight, 30 April 1910, p. 331, via archive. Retrieved: 3 May 2010.
  5. ^ a b Jane 1913, p. 47.
  6. ^ Angelucci and Matricardi 1977
  7. ^ Dunne, J. W. An Experiment with Time. London: Faber, 1939, (fourth edition), 1927 (first edition).
  8. ^ Flieger, Verlyn. "Time in the Stone of Suleiman," in The Rhetoric of Vision: Essays on Charles Williams, by Charles Adolph Huttar and Peter J. Schakel. Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 1996, p. 82. Retrieved: 29 May 2011.
  9. ^ Cleveland Smith, Grover. T. S. Eliot and the Use of Memory. Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 1996, p. 96. Retrieved: 29 May 2011.

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • John William Dunne — Avión experimental Dunne D.5 de John William Dunne. 18 de junio de 1910. Nacimiento 1875 …   Wikipedia Español

  • John Gregory Dunne — (1989) John Gregory Dunne (* 25. Mai 1932 in West Hartford, Connecticut; † 30. Dezember 2003 in New York) war ein US amerikanischer Schriftsteller, Journalist, Literaturkritiker und …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Dunne (surname) — Dunne is an Irish surname from County Laoise and County Wicklow, derived from the Gaelic O Duinn and O Doinn , meaning dark or brown. Dunne is an uncommon given name. People with the name Dunne include: [cite web… …   Wikipedia

  • Dunne — is an Irish surname, derived from the Gaelic O Duinn and O Doinn, meaning dark or brown. The name Dunne in Ireland is derived from the O Duinn and the O Doinn Gaelic Septs who were based in County Laois and County Wicklow. These septs in turn are …   Wikipedia

  • John Dunne — may refer to: *John Dunne (basketball coach) *John Gregory Dunne (1932 2003), American Author *John William Dunne (1875 1949), British engineer and author of An Experiment with Time ee also*John Donne (1572 1631), English Metaphysical poet *John… …   Wikipedia

  • William Starling Burgess — (December 25, 1878 1947) was a yacht designer, aviation pioneer, and naval architect.BiographyWilliam Starling Burgess was born in Boston. He was the son of Edward Burgess who died when Starling was 12. Starling attended Milton Academy and… …   Wikipedia

  • Dunne D.5 — D.5 Role Experimental aircraft Manufacturer Short Brothers Designer John William Du …   Wikipedia

  • Dunne D.1 — D.1 and D.4 Role Experimental aircraft Manufacturer Army Balloon Factory Designer John William Dunne First flight July 1907 The Dunne D.1 ( was an experimental aircraft built in the United Kingdom in 1907. It was later rebuilt as the D.4. Design… …   Wikipedia

  • Dunne D.6 — D.6 Role Experimental inherently stable monoplane National origin United Kin …   Wikipedia

  • Dunne D.8 — D.8 Dunne D.8 at Farnborough, 11 March 1914 Role Experimental aircraft …   Wikipedia

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.