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 5 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.
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.
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.
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.
Next time you wake up in the morning, stick a slice of bread in the toaster and patiently await the satisfying ping on your breakfast, spare a thought for Alan MacMasters - the Scotsman who invented the first electric toaster. Born in the capital city of Edinburgh, MacMasters developed the electric toaster way back in 1893 - a full 35 years before the invention of sliced bread! Legend has it that MacMasters came up with the idea thanks to 'inspiration' from another Scottish invention - whisky. After drinking half a bottle of whisky one evening while working on lighting technology for the London Underground, he noticed that the electrical elements ran so hot they were burning his nearby bread.
Daily Disposable Contact Lens
The invention of the daily disposable contact lens completely revolutionised the world of optics and changed the lives of countless millions of people with vision impairment. The son of a west coast curling stone manufacturer, Scottish-born Ron Hamilton developed the disposable lens in 1995 while working from a makeshift laboratory in his back garden.
Nowadays we see going to the nearest cash machine to withdraw money for a coffee, the shopping or the latest impulse buy as a simple, everyday task - but that wasn't always the case. Thankfully, in 1966, a Scotsman by the name of James Goodfellow, from Paisley, on the west coast of Scotland, invented the first automated teller machine (ATM) and pin number system. This secure technology meant that banks were able to close their doors after business hours, but still dispense cash to customers when they needed it.
James Clerk Maxwell is most well-known as the father of modern physics, with his name commonly mentioned in the same breath as those of Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton, but he was also responsible for the world's first colour photograph. In 1855, Maxwell introduced the world to the 'three colour process' and just a few short years later, while giving a lecture on something completely unrelated, he displayed the first colour photograph - of a tartan ribbon - to the world.
The Kaleidoscope has been a staple of children’s toy chests for more than 200 years since it was invented by Sir David Brewster in 1816. Born in the small Scottish country town of Jedburgh, Brewster was uncannily intelligent – building his own telescope from scratch aged just 10 years old and this early interest in optics continued throughout his life. Incredibly, due to an error at the patent office, Brewster’s invention was allowed to be quickly and crudely copied by opportunistic entrepreneurs, meaning that he saw little of the financial rewards.
Yes, us Scots have really thought of everything – we can’t even answer the call of nature without thinking of ways to perfect it. Flushing toilets have actually existed in some form for thousands of years – the ancient Neolithic site of Skara Brae on Scotland’s Orkney Islands being one example. However, it wasn’t until 1755 when Scottish mechanic Alexander Cumming developed the ‘S bend’ – an invention still in use today. The invention uses standing water to block out foul smells from the connecting sewers.
These days, the use of hypodermic needles in medicine is common-place. Whether it’s an immunisation, giving blood, or receiving an injection of some kind, countless millions of people around the world have experienced the sharp prick of a hypodermic needle. This revolutionary invention is all thanks to Scottish physician, Alexander Wood, who developed the first hypodermic needle in 1853. Wood actually came up with the idea for the device by studying how a bee delivers its sting.
In the world of cutting-edge forensic science, the use of fingerprints to identify criminals is common-place – even mundane – but there was a time when this practice was the very pinnacle of criminal investigation. The idea of using fingerprinting for use in identifying criminals belongs to Scottish doctor, Henry Faulds, who first suggested it back in 1880. He came up with the idea while working on archaeological digs in Japan and noticing finger prints on shards of ancient pottery.
James Watt, the Scottish inventor, engineer and chemist was one of the true pioneers of the industrial revolution. His improvements on the steam engine in 1776 changed industry both at home and around the world. His introduction of a separate condenser helped avoid needless energy waste, making steam engines everywhere more powerful, more efficient and more cost-effective. A popular myth about Watt is that he came up with the idea of the power of steam while watching his mother’s kettle boil and seeing the steam raise the lid.
What’s not to love about the vacuum flask? It keeps your hot drinks hot, it keeps your cold drinks cold – picnic baskets around the world simply wouldn’t be the same without it! Well, the next time you’re pouring a drink from your flask, raise one of those cups to Sir James Dewar – the Scotsman who invented it back in 1892. Amazingly, Dewar actually stumbled upon the invention while working in the field of cryogenics. Though most commonly known as a household item, the vacuum flask also revolutionised the scientific world, becoming a significant tool for chemical experiments.
Few names are more synonymous with a product than the name Dunlop is with tyres - but did you know that the pneumatic tyre you find on every bike or car was invented by a Scotsman. Yes, the name behind Dunlop's famous tyres is that of John Boyd Dunlop, who was born in Ayrshire. Dunlop was actually a veterinary surgeon by trade, running a hugely successful practice, but it was his attempts to make pneumatic tyres for his son's tricycle that made him famous. Dunlop's invention was picked up by a group of cyclists, who instantly began winning races and the success of the design quickly spread.
What's Scotland Ever Done For Me?..
For centuries, Scotland's innovative and inventive spirit has provided the world with some pretty incredible things! From the household items that complement your everyday life, to the medical discoveries that help keep us fit and healthy, Scotland's contribution to society is unmatched and naturally, we're incredibly proud of this rich history.