Winnett Boyd was born on October 17, 1916 in North Wales where his father, Winnett Wornibe Boyd (of Bobcaygeon, Ontario), was serving in the First World War. His mother, Marjorie Sterne St. George, was American. In 1917, Marjorie and the children moved to Canada. Growing up, Boyd lived in Bobcaygeon, Port Hope, Bermuda and Toronto. In 1935, he began studying Mechanical Engineering at the University of Toronto's School of Practical Science. He graduated with a B.Sc. in 1939 and was offered a staff scholarship by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston. He completed one year of graduate studies at MIT as well as a Teaching Assistantship.
Between 1940 and 1943, Boyd worked in the field of engineering for the Demerara Bauxite Company in British Guiana and the Aluminum Company of Canada Limited in Montreal and Shawinigan Falls. In the fall of 1934, Boyd joined the Royal Canadian Navy, and was soon seconded to the National Research Council. In 1943 and 1944, Boyd studied jet engine design in the United Kingdom on behalf of the National Research Council. In 1944, he began working for Turbo Research Limited and was in charge of the Engine Design Section. Turbo Research Limited had been requested by the federal government to begin building a jet engine for Canada. Boyd and his team began designing the TR.3 in 1945. Soon, this project was abandoned in favour of a smaller design, the TR.4, which was later named the Chinook. In 1946, Turbo Research Limited was sold to A.V. Roe Canada. Boyd was transferred to A.V. Roe, where he continued work on the TR.4 as Chief Designer of the Gas Turbine Division and Assistant Chief Engineer. In March of 1948, the Chinook Engine was officially started for the first time. Concurrently, Boyd designed the TR.5, which was later named the Orenda Engine. He began the design of this larger engine in September of 1946, and it ran for the first time in February of 1949. Boyd resigned from A.V. Roe in 1950.
In 1951, Boyd founded Winnett Boyd Limited as a commission agency of consulting engineers. At about the same time, he started working as a Consulting Engineer for the C.D. Howe Company. At C.D. Howe, Boyd was the Chief Mechanical Engineer, and was responsible for the design of the National Research Universal (NRU) Nuclear Reactor. The NRU is currently operating at the Atomic Energy of Canada Limited plant in Chalk River, Ontario. The NRU is still considered one of the world's finest research reactors and produces a large supply of isotopes used for medical reasons.
In 1956, Boyd began designing the Daniels-Boyd Nuclear Steam Generator (D-BNSG) based on Farrington Daniels' work. After two years of promoting the D-BNSG, the project was dismissed. This led to Boyd's involvement in the nuclear controversy with his paper, "The Promise and the Prospects" in 1959.
In 1959, Boyd became the first President of Arthur D. Little's Canadian affiliate in Toronto. He worked for Arthur D. Little until his retirement in 1981, while maintaining his work at Winnett Boyd Limited. Boyd ran for the Progressive-Conservative Party in the 1972 General Election in the York-Scarborough Riding. He used this campaign to publicly discuss the ideology of his friend, Louis O. Kelso.
Boyd attended the Pugwash Conference in 1965 and 1967. The purpose of the Pugwash conferences is to discuss peaceful alternatives for science and international affairs. Boyd was a founding member of the Canadian Association for the Club of Rome, which is also concerned with world affairs.
In 1974, Boyd co-founded BMG Publishing with Kenneth McDonald and Orville Gaines. BMG published eight books pertaining to Canadian politics between 1975 and 1979.
Boyd began developing a bicycle brake in the 1970s. In the early 1990s he built bicycles called the BMG Suburban, equipped with the back-pedalling brake he invented. Boyd sells these bicycles independently.
In 1948, Boyd was the youngest-ever recipient of the University of Toronto's Engineering Alumni Medal for his accomplishments in the field of jet engine design.
In 1954, he was admitted to the grade of Associate Fellow of the Canadian Aeronautical Institute. He also received a certificate of recognition from the Corporation of Professional Engineers of Quebec in 1959.
In 1981, Boyd was inducted into the University of Toronto's Engineering Alumni Hall of Distinction.
Boyd's writings were published widely in a variety of periodicals. He also had three books published: "Personal Thoughts: A Series on the Canadian Prospect" (1966), "The National Dilemma and the Way Out" with Kenneth McDonald (1975), and "Rebel Engineer" (1998).
Winnett Boyd died in 2017 in Lindsay, Ontario.