Great Scottish Inventors
A Scottish History
James Watt (1736-1819)
Perfected Steam Engine
The Greenock-born genius, James Watt, changed our world from an agricultural society to an industrial one. He transformed steam engines into the power of the Industrial Revolution. The electrical unit of power is named after him.
While working at the University of Glasgow James Watt became interested in steam power. He recognised that huge efficiency improvement could be made to the Newcomen steam engine. He further improved his design so that the steam engine could be a motive power.
William Murdoch (1754-1839)
Invented gas lighting
Born in Lugar, Ayrshire, he is famous as the Scot who lit the world. His Cornwall home was the first to be lit by gas and by 1803 gas was used around Britain. Invented steam tricycle, steam cannon and waterproof paint.
William Murdoch was employed by the firm of Boulton and Watt and worked for them in Cornwall, as a steam engine erector for ten years, spending most of the rest of his life in Birmingham, England.
Charles MacIntosh (1766-1843)
Glasgow-born chemist developed technique of sandwiching a layer of rubber between two layers of cloth, making it waterproof. It was first used for an 1824 Arctic expedition. His name lives on today when we refer to wearing a mackintosh or a mac.
Charles Macintosh was born in Glasgow, the son of George Macintosh and Mary Moore, and was first employed as a clerk. Charles MacIntosh became a chemist and inventor of waterproof fabrics. The Mackintosh raincoat (the variant spelling is now standard) is named for him.
James Young Simpson (1811-1870)
The baker’s son from Bathgate pioneered anaesthetics. As Professor of Midwifery at Edinburgh University, he was the first to use anaesthetic for childbirth. He won acclaim after using chloroform on Queen Victoria.
Simpson completed his final examination at the age of 18 but, as he was so young, had to wait two years before he got his licence to practise medicine.
James Young (1811-1883)
Discovered Paraffin Oil
James Young was born in the Drygate area of Glasgow, the son of John Young, a cabinetmaker and joiner. He became his father’s apprentice at an early age, and educated himself at night school, attending evening classes at the nearby Anderson’s College (now Strathclyde University) from the age of 19.
James Young the Glasgow-born father of oil industry. Invented way of extracting paraffin from oil-rich shale and coal and established world’s first oil-works in Bathgate. Made his fortune selling paraffin oil, wax and even fertilisers.
Kirkpatrick MacMillan (1812-1878)
Born near Dumfries, he developed first rear-wheel-drive bicycle in 1842. Villagers thought him mad for dreaming up the first velocipede, as it was then called. Known locally as ‘Daft Pate’, his invention is still used by billions.
Kirkpatrick Macmillan allegedly completed construction of a pedal driven bicycle of wood in 1839 that included iron-rimmed wooden wheels, a steerable wheel in the front and a larger wheel in the rear which was connected to pedals via connecting rods.
Lord Kelvin (1824-1907)
The Father of Thermodynamics
William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin OM GCVO PC PRS PRSE was a British mathematical physicist and engineer who was born in Belfast in 1824.
William Thomson who would become Lord Kelvin went to Glasgow University when just 10. Developed the science of thermodynamics and formulated the Kelvin scale of absolute temperature, Supervised laying of the first transatlantic telegraph cable and improved ship’s compass.
John Boyd Dunlop (1840-1921)
Invented Modern Tyre
Born in Dreghorn, Ayrshire, he qualified as a vet at nineteen. He studied to be a veterinary surgeon at the Dick Vet, University of Edinburgh, a profession he pursued for nearly ten years at home, moving to Downpatrick, Ireland, in 1867.
Fed up with travelling on bumpy roads, he experimented with his son’s tricycle and came up with the idea of an inflated rubber tube. Established what became Dunlop Rubber Company.
Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922)
The Edinburgh teacher of deaf children experimented with electronic devices to help them communicate. His invention was patented in 1876. His many inventions include the biplane, which made it’s first public flight in the USA in 1908.
Bell’s father, grandfather, and brother had all been associated with work on elocution and speech, and both his mother and wife were deaf, profoundly influencing Bell’s life’s work.
Sir Alexander Fleming (1881-1955)
A Scottish biologist, pharmacologist and botanist. He wrote many articles on bacteriology, immunology, and chemotherapy.
Born near Darvel, Ayrshire, he studied medicine in London. Developed the use of anti-typhoid vaccines and in 1928 discovered penicillin, revolutionising world medicine. He won the Nobel Prize in 1945.
John Logie Baird (1888-1946)
Born in Helensburgh, he produced the first TV picture in October 1925. Sent the first images across the Atlantic in 1928. Started first TV station with broadcasts for BBC. Also involved in fibre-optics, radio direction finding and infra-red night viewing.
A Scottish engineer, innovator, one of the inventors of the mechanical television and the inventor of the first publicly demonstrated colour television system; and the first purely electronic colour television picture tube.
George Bennie (1892-1957)
The Glasgow man died, in obscurity, after inventing rail-plane, a high-level monorail system. The prototype, at Milngavie, was sold for scrap in 1956. Today, Las Vegas, Tokyo, Moscow and Seattle all have monorails.
The Bennie Railplane was a form of rail transport invented by George Bennie, which moved along an overhead rail by way of propellers.
Sir Robert Watson-Watt (1893-1973)
Born in Brechin, he began work as a meteorologist in 1915, using radio to detect thunderstorms for aircraft. He then drafted a report on detecting aircraft using radio methods. A chain of radar on the English coast helped the RAF win the Battle of Britain.
Radar was initially nameless and researched elsewhere but it was greatly expanded on 1 September 1936 when Watson-Watt became Superintendent of a new establishment under the Air Ministry.
Sir James Black (1924 – 2010)
Born in Uddingston, Glasgow, he developed drugs that saved millions of lives. Beta-blockers such as Propranolol and Tenormin revolutionised heart treatments. Then came ulcer tackling drugs, like Tagamet. Won the Nobel Prize in 1988. Dundee University Chancellor.
Black was also responsible for the development of cimetidine, a H2 receptor antagonist, a drug used in a similar manner to treat stomach ulcers.
Dr. Ian Wilmut (1944 – )
Sir Ian Wilmut, is a British embryologist and Chair of the Scottish Centre for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Edinburgh.
In 1966 he led a team at Roslin Institute, near Edinburgh, which created Dolly, the first cloned mammal. It caused a worldwide sensation. He is now leading stem-cell research into degenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
In December 2007 it was announced that he would be knighted in the 2008 New Year Honours.
CREDITS: Scottish Inventors in the Sunday Mail Supplement