Famous Scots

Scotland has produced a large number of well known people across all industries from philosophy, music, film and science. How many of these do you recognise?

Scotland has produced a large number of well known people across all industries from philosophy, music, film and science. How many of these do you recognise?

Scottish actors and actresses

Sean Connery

Perhaps the world's best-known Scot, Sir Thomas Sean Connery (born 25 August, 1930), more commonly known as Sean Connery, is the award-winning actor who famously played the character James Bond. The former milkman, factory worker and lorry driver from Edinburgh has starred in many films including The Untouchables, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Connery was voted as "The Greatest Living Scot" and was knighted in July 2000.

Tilda Swinton

The visually striking and fiercely talented Scottish actress Tilda Swinton was born on November 5th, 1960, and is known for appearing in both arthouse and mainstream films. She won an Academy Award in 2008 for 'Best Supporting Actress' for her performance in Michael Clayton, and is well know for her role as the White Witch in the Chronicles of Narnia film series. Swinton also played Eva, in We Need to Talk About Kevin, a film adapted from American author Lionel Shriver's 2003 novel.

Ewan McGregor

Scottish actor, Ewan Gordon McGregor (born 31 March, 1971) is perhaps best known for his roles as Mark Renton in the 1996 film Trainspotting, the young Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars prequel trilogy and more recently as the young Camerlengo Patrick McKenna in an adaptation of Dan Brown's Angles and Demons.

James McAvoy

James Andrew McAvoy (born 21 April, 1979) is a Scottish stage and screen actor. He first came to public attention in the hit UK show, Shameless. He then went on to play Dr Nicolas Garrigan in The Last King of Scotland in 2006 and young Charles Xavier in X-men series.

Kelly Macdonald

Kelly MacDonald (born 23 February, 1976) is famously known for her role as Diane in the film Trainspotting, which she landed after attending an open casting for the part. In 2007 MacDonald was nominated for a BAFTA Award for 'Best Actress in a Supporting Role' for her role as Carla Jean Moss in No Country for Old Men. Macdonald is also the voice of Merida in Pixar's Brave.

For a more extensive list, visit our Scottish Actors and Actresses page.

Scottish scientists and philosophers

Robert Watson-Watt

Sir Robert Watson-Watt is considered by many to be the inventor of the radar. Although initial development had started elsewhere, it greatly expanded when Watson-Watt became superintendant of a new department of the British Air Ministry in 1936. With war looming, Watson-Watt's advances lead to the design and installation of aircraft detection and tracking stations.

Adam Smith

Adam Smith, also known as the Father of Modern Economics, authored 'An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations' in 1776. Regarded by many as one of the most important books ever written, its basic doctrine is that labour is the true source of a nation's wealth. Smith championed individual enterprise and argued the benefits of free trade.

David Hume

Philosopher of the Enlightenment, David Hume authored 'Treatise of Human Nature' when he was 28 years old. Hume's thinking and writing is still widely studied and debated today in the philosophy departments of universities across the world.

Alexander Fleming

Bacteriologist Alexander Fleming, born in Ayrshire in 1881, won the Nobel Peace Prize after discovering Penicillin in 1928. His discovery started the antibiotic revolution, which sealed his lasting reputation in medical history.

James Clerk Maxwell

One of the most important physicists to have ever lived, James Clerk Maxwell unified electricity, magnetism, and light in a single theory. His theory is vital to the development of radio, optical technology and the emergence of special relativity. His impact on physics is regarded as important as those of Einstein and Newton. He also contributed heavily to our understanding of colour vision and the movement of gasses.

Read more about Scottish inventions that have shaped the world.

Scottish heroes & heroines

William Wallace

Wallace is one of Scotland's most revered heroes. He began as an outlaw, but became a leader of men, taking victory over the English at Stirling Bridge in 1297. He was not of noble blood, and perhaps this is why his memory is held so dear. He was executed as a traitor in London in 1305. A number of monuments still stand to his memory in Scotland today including the Wallace National Monument just outside Stirling which also houses the sword he was reputed to wield.

Robert the Bruce

Born in 1274, Robert the Bruce became King of Scotland in 1306. Edward I of England took immediate action forcing him into hiding. It's believed that during this time, Bruce saw a spider trying to build a web, and it was the spider's perseverance that inspired him to carry on fighting the English. After the death of Edward I in 1307, Bruce defeated Edward II's armies at Bannockburn in 1314. This was a turning point in the war, and Bruce was eventually victorious with the English.

Mary Queen of Scots

Mary Queen of Scots (1542-1587) was crowned when she was just nine months old. Mary often found herself trapped between warring political factions, each trying to use her to enhance their power. Mary married three times, first to Francis, Daupin of France, but she was to be widowed after only a year. She then married Lord Darnley, believing it would secure her children's right to the English throne, but it was a poor match. In February 1567, Darnley was found murdered in his garden.

Rob Roy

Known as the Scottish Robin Hood, Rob Roy (1671-1734) was part of the Jacobite uprising which aimed to restore King James II to the throne of the United Kingdom. Badly wounded at the Battle of Glen Shiel in 1719, he later became an outlaw, stealing cattle and engaging in a feud with the Duke of Montrose. He was imprisoned for a time, but was eventually pardoned.

Bonnie Prince Charlie

Grandson of King James the VII of Scotland and II of England, Bonnie Prince Charlie, (1720 – 1788) believed he was the rightful heir to the thrones of Scotland, England and Ireland. He is best known as the instigator of the unsuccessful Jacobite uprising of 1745, which ended in defeat at the Battle of Culloden. He fled Scotland to France, where he died age 67. He became a romantic hero for the Scots and the tale of his escape with the help of Flora MacDonald, still captures the imagination.

Flora Macdonald

In 1746, Flora helped Bonnie Prince Charlie escape Scotland after the Battle of Culloden. Aged just 24, she disguised the Prince as a woman, and took him by boat to Skye, an event recalled in the Skye Boat song. He safely escaped, but Flora was arrested and spent some time in the Tower of London. Released in 1747, she emigrated to North Carolina with her husband, but returned to Scotland in 1779. She died in 1790 and was buried on the Isle of Skye.

Go to Visitscotland.com for more Scottish historical figures.

Scottish sportspeople

Andy Murray

Born in 1987 in Glasgow, Andy Murray is the current British No. 1 and is ranked No. 3 in the world. Andy has won 45 career titles including three Grand Slam titles and two Olympic singles gold medals. Former Wimbledon champion, Andy is the UK's most successful player in the Open Era. In 2015 Andy also brought the Davis Cup back to the UK after his victory; it's the first time the cup has returned to the UK in 79 years.

Alex Ferguson

Sir Alex, or Fergie, has won 48 trophies as a manager, making him the most successful British football manager in history. His career in football began as an amateur player for Queen's Park when he was just 16. Until he turned professional in 1964, Sir Alex was also an apprentice tool-worker at the famous Glasgow shipyards. During his professional career he played with a number of Scottish teams, including Dunfermline and Rangers. In 1974, Ferguson moved into football management.

Catriona Matthews

The winner of the 2009 Women's British Open, Catriona Matthews is one of the world's best known female golfers. Hailing from North Berwick in East Lothian, she began her golfing career on the children's course at her local golf club, and went on to become the Scottish Girls' Champion in 1986. Since then she's gone on to win three LPGA tours and three European tours. Catriona still competes at the highest level of women's golf.

Chris Hoy

Sir Christopher Hoy MBE is a multiple world track cycle champion and Olympic Games gold medal winner. Born in Edinburgh in 1976, Hoy is Scotland's most successful Olympian; the first Brit to win three gold medals in a single Olympic Games since 1908; and the most successful Olympic male cyclist of all time. Not bad for a wee boy who started out riding a BMX.

Eric Liddell

Eric Henry Liddell born to missionary parents in China, is one of Scotland's greatest sporting heroes. His life was famously portrayed in the film, Chariots of Fire. Liddell won seven international rugby caps between 1921 and 1923, before pursuing a career in athletics. He won many titles for the 100, 220 and 440 yard sprints, and was included in the Paris 1924 Olympics, where he famously did not run the 100 meter sprint, as it was held on the Sabbath.

Jackie Stewart

Jackie Stewart or Sir John Young Stewart OBE, better know as the Flying Scot, was born in Dumbartonshire on June 11, 1939. Between 1965 and 1973 he competed in Formula One winning three World Championships, and 27 race wins. In 2009, Jackie was ranked fifth in the 50 greatest Formula One drivers of all time.

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