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Scottish inventions and discoveries

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Title: Scottish inventions and discoveries  
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Scottish inventions and discoveries

"the most significant event of the 19th century will be judged as Maxwell's discovery of the laws of electrodynamics"
Scottish inventions and discoveries

are objects, processes or techniques either partially or entirely invented or discovered by a person born in or descended from Scotland. In some cases, an invention's Scottishness is determined by the fact that it came into existence in Scotland (e.g., animal cloning), by non-Scots working in the country. Often, things that are discovered for the first time are also called "inventions" and in many cases there is no clear line between the two.

The Scots take enormous pride in the history of Scottish invention and discovery. There are many books devoted solely to the subject, as well as scores of websites listing Scottish inventions and discoveries with varying degrees of science.

Even before the Industrial Revolution, Scots have been at the forefront of innovation and discovery across a wide range of spheres. Some of the most significant products of Scottish ingenuity include James Watt's steam engine, improving on that of Thomas Newcomen,[1] the bicycle,[2] macadamisation (not to be confused with tarmac or tarmacadam[3]), the telephone invented by Alexander Graham Bell,[4] John Logie Baird's invention of television,[5][6] Alexander Fleming's discovery of penicillin,[7] and the discoveries of electromagnetics, radar,[8] and insulin.[9]

The following is a list of inventions or discoveries that are in some way Scottish.


  • Road transport innovations 1
  • Civil engineering innovations 2
  • Aviation innovations 3
  • Power innovations 4
  • Shipbuilding innovations 5
  • Military innovations 6
  • Heavy industry innovations 7
  • Agricultural innovations 8
  • Communication innovations 9
  • Publishing firsts 10
  • Culture and the Arts 11
  • Fictional characters 12
  • Scientific innovations 13
  • Sports innovations 14
  • Medical innovations 15
  • Household innovations 16
  • Weapons innovations 17
  • Miscellaneous innovations 18
  • See also 19
  • References 20
    • Publications 20.1
  • External links 21

Road transport innovations

Civil engineering innovations

Aviation innovations

Power innovations

Shipbuilding innovations

Military innovations

  • Lieutenant-General Sir David Henderson two areas:
    • Field intelligence. Argued for the establishment of the Intelligence Corps. Wrote Field Intelligence: Its Principles and Practice (1904) and Reconnaissance (1907) on the tactical intelligence of modern warfare during World War I.[31]
  • Special forces: Founded by Sir David Stirling, the SAS was created in World War II in the North Africa campaign to go behind enemy lines to destroy and disrupt the enemy. Since then it has been regarded as the most famous and influential special forces that has inspired other countries to form their own special forces too.

Heavy industry innovations

Agricultural innovations

Communication innovations

Publishing firsts

  • The first edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica (1768–81)[58]
  • The first English textbook on surgery(1597)[59]
  • The first modern pharmacopaedia, William Cullen (1776). The book became 'Europe's principal text on the classification and treatment of disease'. His ideas survive in the terms nervous energy and neuroses (a word that Cullen coined).[60]
  • The first postcards and picture postcards in the UK[61]
  • The first eBook from a UK administration (March 2012). Scottish Government publishes 'Your Scotland, Your Referendum'.[62]
  • The educational foundation of Ophthalmology: Stewart Duke-Elder in his ground breaking work including ‘Textbook of Ophthalmology and fifteen volumes of System of Ophthalmology’[63]

Culture and the Arts

Fictional characters

Scientific innovations

Sports innovations

Scots have been instrumental in the invention and early development of several sports:

  • Australian rules football Scots were prominent with many innovations in the early evolution of the game, including the establishment of the Essendon Football Club by the McCracken family from Ayrshire[118][119][120][121][122]
  • several modern athletics events, i.e. shot put[123] and the hammer throw,[123] derive from Highland Games and earlier 12th century Scotland[123]
  • Curling[124]
  • Gaelic handball The modern game of handball is first recorded in Scotland in 1427, when King James I an ardent handball player had his men block up a cellar window in his palace courtyard that was interfering with his game.[125]
  • Cycling, invention of the pedal-cycle[126]
  • Golf (see Golf in Scotland)
  • Ice Hockey, invented by the Scots regiments in Atlantic Canada by playing Shinty on frozen lakes.
  • Shinty The history of Shinty as a non-standardised sport pre-dates Scotland the Nation. The rules were standardised in the 19th century by Archibald Chisholm[127]
  • Rugby sevens: Ned Haig and David Sanderson (1883)[128]
  • The Dugout was invented by Aberdeen FC Coach Donald Colmanin the 1920s

Medical innovations

Household innovations

Weapons innovations

Miscellaneous innovations

See also


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  • Visit Scotland - Scottish Inventions


  • Great Scottish Discoveries and Inventions, Bill Fletcher, William W. Fletcher, John Harrold, Drew, 1985, University of California, ISBN 0-86267-084-5, ISBN 978-0-86267-084-9
  • Great Scottish inventions and discoveries: a concise guide : a selection of Scottish inventions and discoveries made over a period stretching back to the fifteenth century, John Geddes, Northern Books, 1994
  • Scottish Inventors, Alistair Fyfe, HarperCollins, 1999, ISBN 0-00-472326-0, ISBN 978-0-00-472326-6
  • The Scottish invention of America, democracy and human rights: a history of liberty and freedom from the ancient Celts to the New Millennium, Alexander Leslie Klieforth, Robert John Munro, University Press of America, 2004, ISBN 0-7618-2791-9, ISBN 978-0-7618-2791-7
  • The Scottish invention of English literature, Robert Crawford, Cambridge University Press, 1998, ISBN 0-521-59038-8, ISBN 978-0-521-59038-9
  • Philosophical chemistry in the Scottish enlightenment: the doctrines and discoveries of William Cullen and Joseph Black, Arthur L. Donovan

External links

  • Top Twenty Scottish Inventions, 15th International World Wide Web Conference, Edinburgh, 2006
  • Scottish Inventors . . . who keep the world in touch, Global Friends of Scotland (a Scottish Executive website)
  • Scottish Inventors and their Inventions, Kenmay Academy
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