Scottish inventions and discoveries

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"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

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.[32]
  • 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

Culture and the Arts

Fictional characters

Scientific innovations

Sports innovations

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

Medical innovations

Household innovations

Weapons innovations

Miscellaneous innovations

See also


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  • 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
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