T13: Scottish Inventions and Discoveries

Wikipedia.org can be quoted as saying:

“The Scots take enormous pride in the history of Scottish invention and discovery.”

Personally speaking, this seems like a gross understatement. I grew up learning all about the great inventors and pioneers in Primary school — my Mum even has a heavy-bound book entitled “Inventions that changed the world”. Joking aside, here it is, my list of inventions and discoveries that changed our world, all from the great people of Scotland.

1. Do I have the chachungas to list TELEVISION as number 1? Ha-ha-ha, Yes, yes I do.

John Logie Baird (1888-1946), Helensburgh, Scotland:
“On March 25, 1925, Scottish inventor John Logie Baird gave a demonstration of televised silhouette images in motion at Selfridge’s Department Store in London. In 1927, Baird transmitted a signal over 438 miles (705 km) of telephone line between London and Glasgow. In 1928, Baird’s company (Baird Television Development Company / Cinema Television) broadcast the first transatlantic television signal, between London and New York, and the first shore-to-ship transmission. He also demonstrated an electromechanical color, infrared (dubbed “Noctovision”), and stereoscopic television, using additional lenses, disks and filters. In parallel, Baird developed a video disk recording system dubbed “Phonovision”; a number of the Phonovision recordings, dating back to 1927, still exist. In 1929, he became involved in the first experimental electromechanical television service in Germany. In November 1929, Baird and Bernard Natan of Pathe established France’s first television company, Télévision-Baird-Natan. In 1931, he made the first live transmission, of the Epsom Derby. In 1932, he demonstrated ultra-short wave television. Baird’s electromechanical system reached a peak of 240 lines of resolution on BBC television broadcasts in 1936, before being discontinued in favor of a 405-line all-electronic system developed by Marconi-EMI.” – wikipedia.org

In a banter-fuelled discussion with my FIL, I responded a little too defensively, “come on, do you really think someone from Idaho could invent the TV?!” It was then I recalled he was born in Pocatello…

2. TELEPHONEAlexander Graham Bell (1847-1922), Edinburgh, Scotland.

3. IMPROVEMENTS TO THE STEAM ENGINEJames Watt (1736–1819), Greenock, Scotland.

4. PENICILLINSir Alexander Fleming (1881-1955), Lochfield farm near Darvel in East Ayrshire, Scotland.

5. THE PEDAL BICYCLE – Kirkpatrick Macmillan (1813-1878), Thornhill, Dumfriesshire, Scotland.

6. FIRST WORKABLE RADAR SYSTEM – Sir Robert Alexander Watson-Watt, a descendant of James Watt, (1892-1973) Brechin, Scotland.

7. ADHESIVE STAMPS and POSTMARKJohn Chalmers (1782-1853), Arbroath, Scotland.

8. INSULIN – John James Richard MacLeod (1876–1935) of Clunie, Perth and Kinross, Scotland.

9. TARMACADAM (TARMAC) ROADS – John Loudon Macadam (1736-1856) Ayr, Scotland.

10. THE U.S. NAVYJohn Paul Jones (1747-1782) Kirkcudbright (‘Kir’kood’bree‘), Scotland.

11. WHISKY – Derived from Gaelic word for “water”, and given its full title of “uisge-beatha” Water of Life. “The first written record of whisky comes from 1405 in Ireland, where it was distilled by monks. It is also mentioned in Scotland in 1496. However it is thought that whisky had already been around for at least several hundred years prior. When or where whisky was first distilled is unknown and the local, undocumented beverage production during the period makes identification of the drink’s origin difficult. Additionally, it is possible that different groups discovered processes of distillation completely independently of one another.”
Arguably the best whisky in the world is distilled in Scotland. It is unofficially the Scottish National Drink. Irn Bru is “the other national drink”.

12. THE PNEUMATIC TYREJohn Boyd Dunlop (1840-1921), Dreghorn, Scotland.

13. BRIDGE DESIGN Sir William Arrol (1838-1913) Houston, Renfrewshire, Scotland; Thomas Telford (1757-1834) Westerkirk, Scotland; & John Rennie (1761-1821) East Linton, Scotland.

There are many more far too numerous to mention, but a comprehensive list can be found here. A few others, for example are:

Joseph Lister (1827-1912) Edinburgh, Scotland
CHLOROFORM, AN ANAESTHETIC discovered by Sir James Young Simpson of Bathgate, Scotland.
LIGHTHOUSE DESIGNRobert Stevenson (1772-1850)
THE ULTRASOUND SCANNERIan Donald (1910-1987)
BANK OF ENGLAND founded by William Paterson of Dumfries, Scotland
GOLF circa. 1100
FOOTBALL The first known rules of the game were published in Scotland. Edinburgh was home to the world’s first club The Edinburgh Foot Ball Club.
BASKETBALL James A. Naismith (1861-1939) Although its origins hail from Canada, his parents were both emigrants. Guess where from?
THE FOUNTAIN PEN Robert Thomson (1822-1873)
THE MRI BODY SCANNER John Mallard in 1980
THE BREECH-LOADING RIFLECaptain Patrick Ferguson of Pitfours, Scotland.
Honourable mention: FIRST MAN NAMED IN THE BIBLE – King James VIKJV

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I posted this today and my good friend Laura, posted this. If you watch any video today, let it be this one. It also gives great insight into us Scots. Incidentally, I went to Primary and High School with the narrator’s cousin, Sharon.


25 responses to “T13: Scottish Inventions and Discoveries

  1. How about the $ sign, invented in St Andrews.

  2. Well la-te-da! Sure that was all invented in Scotland but what about FRIED CHEESE CURDS? I believe that orginated right here in Wisconsin, baby! So there!

  3. anglophilefootballfanatic

    You need to correct Naismith: although he was Canadian, the game was invented in the States. Catwoman and I are having an ongoing dispute about this!

    Also, leave it to a MacLeod (Beatons all!) to invent insulin! My hubby certainly thanks you, dude!

    You guys are so plucky! I just loves ya one and all. Also, you gotta give me a list of Scots I need to read.

  4. i think all you had to say was whiskey and throw down the mic.

  5. I learn something interesting everytime I stop by here. We Yanks certainly thank you for the whiskey.

  6. John Logie Baird, bless his soul. Yes. There’s a sign we pass often in Rigby, Idaho that says “Rigby, the birthplace of Television” they have a museum and everything. I get very moothy when we pass there. It drives me BONKERS!
    You can look up “Philo T Farnsworth” for yourself.
    Pride. Pride. Pride.

  7. I didn’t know about tv. Great list : )

  8. AFF: Unlike Catwoman, my view isn’t whether or not it was invented there or not, but rather that his Mum and Dad were Scottish, basically making him a fully-fledged heidbanger himself. Take the Scot out of Canada and you’ve still got basketball. Now, I’ll say this much, I’m no expert and read up on this online, so it must be true.

    Oh Laura, believe me, believe me, I know ALL about Mr. Farnsworth. I’ve passed that sign many times myself and gotten into a strop about it too. I have had many a discussion with my FIL (see post) and then recalled he himself was born in Idaho. I like to stick both feet in it.

  9. Actually, there is evidence of grain distillation as early as 800 BC in China, BUT; Scotland perfected it and every other whiskey is just pish.

    I’m also surprised that you didn’t mention ‘Dolly’, the first cloned sheep; although why any country would want to clone an animal that already outnumbers the people 7 to 1, is beyond me.

  10. I remember an old Saturday Night Live skit that Mike Myers did where the big line was “If it’s not Scottish, it’s CRAP!” It was one of the funniest things ever. I’m going to try to find it for you and send it. 🙂

  11. Whisky people, its spelled without the ‘e’ 😉

  12. Thank God for Number11. WHISKY!!
    Irn Bru comes in at Number 12 on my list. 🙂

  13. I read along and recalled a lot of the names and the fact that they were Scottish but still sauch a list – it is amazing that so many great inventions have Scottish roots!!

  14. Changing the topic slightly, have you read this article at The Times?

    “Scotland’s traditions are a fiction. But they are better than England’s”

  15. The Refridgerator?? William Cullen circa 1748

  16. for a small nation scotland has invented hungredes of things the modern world coudnt function whithout and to america it was a scot who invented harverd the the beggining of your education so yous ow your education to the scots

    • Scots didn’t do much for the United States as America had little Scottish immigration and only has about 4 million scots. Most American acomplishments came from Germans or English rather than Scots. NASA, The Nuke, Its Technology, Video games, Aircraft, Hollywood, most of it German-Americans

  17. NORRIE
    How about square sausage

  18. I love how Europeans are so quick to insult Americans, cut all ties to them, and claim them to not be European or truly the ethnicities they claim YET everytime you turn around when its an invention by some Scottish, German, Irish, Italian or Scandinavian American they always try to claim it. No a Canadian invention is a Canadian invention. An American invention is an American invention regardless of where the guy’s parents came from he was born and raised on Canadian soil he is a full fledged Canadian. His blood has nothing to do with it. If that was truly the case than, hell African nations can start claiming they invented R&B & Hip Hop just because African Americans did LOL

    • Trumps – Sorry Jess but Americans and Canadians are really good at riding on the back of others too – Alexander G Bell for example…lived in Canada as an adult ,so he is Canadian apparently?? I have seen this false ownership first hand having lived in Canada! By you’re own rules, he isni as he has scotty blood in his viens. Auch well, we Scotts have loads of inventors and will gladly share as you must be a bit short on worldy contributions 🙂

  19. Wonderful informative article! I came upon your article through accident while I was enquiring about this matter on Bing search engine. I’m happy that I did because you have given me something to re-examine and consider my conclusion Thanks!

  20. He served one tour tips for treating tennis elbow of duty in Iraq, 2004.
    Maybe it’s the World Series this weekend, I felt so upset, as he returned to cycling and became world sprint champion.

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