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With a population of just over 5 million, the Scots are a rare bunch graced with endless innovation and epiphanies. The source of numerous genius inventions, the fun doesn’t end with Irn-Bru, whisky, Burns Suppers and deep-fried Mars Bars! Discover just 25 incredible things from Scotland that have made the world a better place.
Just think — the world would not have been introduced to that wee gem of a magic box had it not been for Scottish engineer John Logie Baird! This legend, known as ‘The Father of Television’, gave the first ever demonstration of a working TV back in 1925.
A legit banter machine and an endless source of amusement, it’s no surprise that a Scot created the kaleidoscope! The brainchild of Scottish inventor Sir David Brewster, this hypnotic device was born in 1816.
Considering the, at times, Baltic weather conditions in Scotland, you wouldn’t think people back in the day would be scrambling to invent a fridge, but they did! The first ever artificial refrigeration was designed in 1755 by Scottish professor William Cullen.
Genuine medical emergencies are made all the more bearable thanks to Scottish scientist Alexander Fleming, who discovered the antibiotic penicillin in 1928. Lifesaver.
The Encyclopedia Britannica is the original Google. Yes, life did exist before the internet! The oldest encyclopedia in the English language and still going strong today, the first issue was published in Edinburgh as three volumes between 1768 and 1771.
Queen fans may not have heard Freddie belt out ‘I want to ride my bicycle’ had it not been for the Scottish man of many hats, Kirkpatrick Macmillan. A blacksmith from Dumfriesshire, he conjured up the pedal bicycle around about 1839 in a bid to get around at a faster pace. His horizontal mentality meant that he never patented it or kicked up a fuss when others caught onto the trend.
Whether brown, white, gluten free or pop tart, the next time you’re waiting for the electric bread toaster to work its magic, just remember — this genius appliance was invented in 1893 by Alan MacMasters, a Scottish scientist with a penchant for breakfast.
Although curious minds were studying the Earth’s physical material for centuries, there’s no denying that good old James Hutton, The Father of Modern Geology, made investigating rocks and earth science sexy by bringing it out of the dark ages. Celebrated as the first ‘modern geologist’, Hutton’s theory of uniformitarianism and other works, put geology on the map as a legitimate science.
Unbeknown to many, Scottish banking mogul and trader Sir William Paterson was one of the first to put forth the idea of the Bank Of England.
Scotland, with its slew of iconic courses, is praised time and time again for inventing golf, with the first record of the modern sport dating back to the 15th century.
The year 1888 witnessed a nifty contraption — the very first pneumatic bike tyre. This was all thanks to Scottish inventor and veterinary surgeon John Boyd Dunlop.
Ah, the G&T — that wonderfully refreshing and quintessentially British tipple that we all love and adore — is all thanks to Scottish doctor George Cleghorn. During the 1700s, he found that quinine was a wonderful elixir for treating malaria. With the view that gin o’clock is around the clock, British officers in India during the early 19th century added lime, sugar, water and a splash of gin to the quinine so to counteract the bitter taste. And voila!
A Scottish hero, Dolly is kind of a big deal. Born in 1996 at the Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh, Dolly was the first ever mammal cloned via the process of nuclear transfer from an adult somatic cell. This legendary sheep, whose existence was a groundbreaking scientific breakthrough, had three mothers.
The rumours are true! Chicken tikka masala — a popular gastronomic delight — is said to originate in Glasgow. Mr Ali Ahmed Aslam, owner of Glaswegian culinary landmark the Shish Mahal, invented the dish after a customer complained about dry chicken. All it took was a sumptuous blend of spices swirled with an innovative helping of Campbell’s condensed tomato soup (that he had in stock to help ease a stomach ulcer) and bingo!
If it weren’t for Scottish inventor Alexander Graham Bell and his brilliant mind during the 1870s, who knows what the future of social media and emojis would look like. Sure, he didn’t create smart phones but he was smart and he did invent a phone — the first practical telephone.
An essential contribution to the art of photography, Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell brought to light the ‘three-colour method’ (using pure colours of green, red and blue) in 1855. Maxwell’s research is responsible for the first colour photograph (a tartan ribbon), with his theory acting as the foundation for most colour processes today.
While on an archaeological dig with a friend, Scottish doctor and missionary Henry Faults noted that fingerprints were apparent on ancient clay fragments. An observation that became a life’s mission, Faulds began to dig deeper, publishing his findings in 1880. Let’s just say that if it weren’t for this Scot, criminals may not have to wear gloves!
A cult classic and trusty go-to for many gamers, Grand Theft Auto is the brainchild of Scottish video game design extraordinaire David Jones (founder of game company DMA Design, now Rockstar North) and Mike Daily. Remember the Kincaid Bridge in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas? Yep, you guessed it — this rail bridge is based on Scotland’s iconic Forth Bridge in Edinburgh.
As the founder of the BBC, John Reith, 1st Baron Reith from Stonehaven in Aberdeenshire, became the first general director when this broadcasting institution went public in 1927. Reith is also the man responsible for trending independent public service broadcasting in the UK.
A team of dedicated scientists at the University of Dundee extended the frontiers between sci-fi and the earthly realm by making tractor beams a reality. Coined by the influential Edward E. Smith in his 1947 sci-fi novel Spacehounds of IPC, the term ‘tractor beam’ is an updated version of his ‘attractor beam’ and is essentially a contraption that lures something to another from great distances.
A human calculator, John Napier must have been the type of person to solve mathematical problems in his sleep! This Scottish genius is renowned for his discovery of logarithms.
A man of many mathematical related talents, John Napier of Merchiston also made common use of the decimal point in maths look cool!
Sexy, smooth and super powered, the Aston Martin Vanquish is just one of the many stunning cars by Scottish car designer and Jaguar’s Director of Design Ian Callum. This V12 grand tourer car served as the wheels of James Bond in Die Another Day.
Said to be modelled after a bee’s sting, Scottish doctor Alexander Wood invented the world’s first hypodermic syringe in 1853.
No explanation needed, really! Although Sir John Harrington is credited with inventing this necessary contraption, the wise Scottish watchmaker and instrument inventor Alexander Cumming was actually the first to patent the design of the flushing toilet. In 1775, Cumming conjured up the indispensable bend or ‘S-trap’, that’s used today in or below plumbing fixtures.