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Scotland: A Nation of Inventors

Not only have some of Scotland’s inventions greatly influenced the way in which people all over the world spend their leisure time but some have also made significant contributions to the health and wellbeing of the world’s population.

Over the last few centuries, the Scots have produced a relatively large proportion of the world’s greatest inventions, many of which still have a significant impact on the way we live our lives today. This is particularly surprising when you consider that Scotland currently has a population of just 5 million.

Not only have some of these inventions greatly influenced the way in which people all over the world spend a large portion of their leisure time but some have also made significant contributions to the health and wellbeing of the world’s population for a number of decades.

Television

In 1924, Scottish electrical engineer, John Logie Baird became the first person to televise objects in motion in 1924. A broadcasting milestone was reached in 1928 when Baird carried out the first transatlantic transmission.

Refrigerators

Scottish doctor and chemist, William Cullen became Professor of Chemistry and Medicine at the University of Edinburgh in 1755. In the following year, he gave a practical demonstration of artificial refrigeration by using a pump to create a partial vacuum over a container of diethyl ether, which then boiled, absorbing heat from the surroundings. This process proved to create a small amount of ice.

Penicillin

Scottish scientist, Sir Alexander Fleming discovered the benefits of Penicillin while working at his laboratory in St Mary’s Hospital, London. It is now claimed to have saved more lives than the number lost in all the wars of history.

Anesthetics

Scottish doctor, Sir James Young Simpson was responsible for discovering the anesthetic properties of chloroform and against medical and religious opposition he successfully introduced it for general medical use.

Quinine

In the 1740s, Scottish Army surgeon, George Cleghorn discovered that quinine bark was effective in treating malaria.

Pneumatic Tyres

At the age of 23, in 1845 Robert William Thomson invented the pneumatic tyre or “aerial wheel” as Thomson referred to it. The pneumatic tyre was ahead of its time as demand for the product only came 50 years later with the introduction of the motor car. Thomson also went on to invent the fountain pen and the first ever mechanical road haulage vehicle.

Radar Defence System

Robert Watson-Watt of Brechin is credited with inventing the radar defence system which was said to be fundamental in defending the UK against Nazi Germany during World War II.

Telephone

In March 1876, Scottish scientist, Alexander Graham Bell made the first two way speech transmission. Five months later, Bell made the first ever log distance phone call from his family home to his assistant who was 10 miles away.

Other famous Scottish inventions include whiskey, golf and the cloning of mammals with the creation of Dolly the Sheep in 1997.

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  1. Sandra L. Petersen

    On December 4, 2007 at 10:32 am


    Fascinating article!

  2. Mark L L Henderson

    On June 15, 2008 at 7:24 pm


    I being scottish myself have always thought it pretty strange considering our small population …not to mention that the list go’s on and on with listerine antiseptic (joseph lister),Tarmac(adam) and the list go’s on and on http://www.magicdragon.com/Wallace/thingscot.html

    I reckon thats why in the USA , There is a NASA inhouse joke about another meaning being “Need A Scottish Ancestor” :P

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