Scottish Inventions

The world has been revolutionised time and time again by great Scottish inventors, fuelled by their boundless imagination and inspired creativity. From the television and penicillin, to tidal energy turbines, a passion for innovation in Scotland has advanced industry at home and overseas throughout history.

These are just a small sample of some of the Scottish innovations that have shaped our world:


It's tough to imagine life without your favourite TV shows. Whether you're a binge watcher, or just an occasional viewer, the television is one of the most prominent inventions in the modern world. The next time you flick on your 'goggle-box', spare a thought for Scotsman John Logie Baird, the man we have to thank for this wonderful invention. Baird demonstrated the first working television system way back in January of 1926 and just two years later he achieved the first transatlantic television transmission. Baird was committed to the television throughout much of his life and was also responsible for inventing the first colour television.

Dolly the Sheep

When creating a list of some of Scotland's greatest innovations, a sheep may seem like a strange choice. However, there are few sheep that are quite as special as our Dolly, as she was the first-ever mammal to be cloned from an adult cell. Known as 'the world's most famous sheep', Dolly was born on the 5th of July 1996 at the Roslin Institute, which is part of The University of Edinburgh. Dolly, who was named after singer Dolly Parton, became famous around the world and even featured in the prestigious TIME Magazine. Dolly lived to the age of seven and gave birth to six healthy lambs during her life.


Nowadays phones can do all kinds of incredible things, connecting you with people all over the world at the touch of a button. But did you know that the first ever telephone was invented by Scotsman Alexander Graham Bell? Bell's interest in this area stemmed from the fact that both his mother and his wife were profoundly deaf. His research on hearing and speech led him to experiment with hearing devices before later being granted the first patent for the telephone in 1876. Interestingly, Bell considered the telephone a nuisance and an intrusion on his real work and as a result refused to have one in his study.

MRI Scanner

The MRI scanner is an incredibly important piece of technology in the medical world, which has had a major impact on how we view the human body. The breakthrough for the MRI scanner was made by a team working at the University of Aberdeen. In 1980 the team obtained the first clinically useful image of a patient's internal tissues. Nowadays the MRI is considered to be a safer diagnostic tool than X-rays, and is more useful for soft tissue imaging. The device works by building up a picture of the human body using high frequency radio signals.


Sir Alexander Fleming is perhaps one of the best known Scots, thanks to his discovery of penicillin. Fleming was a recipient of the Nobel Prize and in 2009 was voted the 3rd greatest Scot behind Robert Burns and William Wallace. What you may not know about this life-saving discovery is that he happened upon it somewhat by accident. In fact, Fleming's general lack of tidiness was to thank for the discovery. In 1928, while working with the flu virus, Fleming returned to his lab after a prolonged family holiday to find the cultures he had been working on stacked in a corner in his laboratory. Noticing unusual changes in the cultures Fleming used them to isolate the penicillin, marking the start of modern antibiotics.


Scotsman William Cullen, who was born way back in 1710, is the man we have to thank for the invention of the refrigerator. Its introduction fundamentally changed the way people around the world were able to store and transport food. The fridge opened up new tastes from far off lands and helped prolong the life of perishable food items. Cullen demonstrated his discovery at Glasgow University in 1748, though at the time no effort was made to commercialise the invention. Today there are more than 500 million refrigerators in use across the globe.

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