Big Ideas
that Changed the World

Great Scottish Inventors

A Scottish History


James Watt

James Watt (1736-1819)

Perfected Steam Engine

The Greenock-born genius 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 is named after him.

William Murdoch

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.

Charles MacIntosh

Charles MacIntosh (1766-1843)

Invented Raincoat

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.

James Young Simpson

James Young Simpson (1811-1870)

Discovered chloroform

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.

James Young

James Young (1811-1883)

Discovered Paraffin Oil

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

Kirkpatrick MacMillan (1812-1878)

Invented Bicycle

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.

Lord Kelvin

Lord Kelvin (1824-1907)

The Father of Thermodynamics

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

John Boyd Dunlop (1840-1921)

Invented Modern Tyre

Born in Dreghorn, Ayrshire, he qualified as a vet at nineteen. 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

Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922)

Invented Telephone

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.

Sir Alexander Fleming

Sir Alexander Fleming (1881-1955)

Discovered penicillin

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

John Logie Baird (1888-1946)

Invented Television

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.

George Bennie

George Bennie (1892-1957)

Discovered Monorail

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.

Sir Robert Watson-Watt

Sir Robert Watson-Watt (1893-1973)

Developed Radar

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.

Sir James Black

Sir James Black (1924 - )

Invented Beta-blockers

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.

Dr. Ian Wilmut

Dr. Ian Wilmut (1944 - )

Invented Beta-blockers

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.

SOURCE: Sunday Mail