We don't like to brag, but for centuries, Scotland's innovative and inventive spirit has provided the world with some pretty incredible things! OK, maybe we do like to brag - but can you blame us?
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 through innovation and invention is unmatched. Naturally, we're incredibly proud of this rich history, but we're not ones to rest on our laurels.
Today's crop of inventors and innovators are still consistently breaking new ground - standing on the shoulders of their giant predecessors and reaching new heights.
So, the next time someone asks you "what's Scotland ever done for me?" - or maybe you're even just a wee bit curious yourself - you can use this one-stop shop for everything you need to know about Scotland's pioneering spirit.
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.
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.
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.
When you talk about innovation in Scotland, there aren’t many bigger stories to tell than the meteoric rise of Skyscanner. Founded in 2004, this global travel search site has grown to become one of the leading names in the industry – not bad for a company founded because of a frustration over trying to book a ski holiday! The winner of countless international awards, today Skyscanner is available in more than 30 different languages and is used by a staggering 80 million people every month.
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.
Attis Fitness is the next step in activity tracking technology. Developed at Stirling University’s Innovation Park, they specialise in producing wearable motion capture clothing. Where regular activity trackers can monitor heart rate and GPS, Attis take it to a whole other level. They monitor everything from stride length, cadence, bounce, pelvic rotation/drop, meaning anyone can achieve optimal performance. With an easy set-up that’s designed to work in all conditions Attis bridge the gap between elite athletes and everyone else.
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.
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.
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.
Sunamp is changing how we heat our homes by harnessing the power of thermal energy. Compact, energy-efficient and sustainable, Sunamp’s UniQ heat batteries cut fuel costs and carbon emissions by storing available energy from renewable and non-renewable sources as heat and releasing it on demand. They also have multiple types of their Thermal Battery, all designed to deal with varying levels of demand.
What else have you got?
The above inventions and innovations are really just the tip of the iceberg - and trust us, it's a big iceberg!
So, if this has only served to whet your appetite, then we've got great news for you: you're only one click away from discovering the wider world of Scotland's incredibly inventive nature.
Scotland's Past Inventions & Innovations
If you're interested in the incredible strokes of ingenuity that are scattered throughout Scotland's past, this is the place for you. From cloning to cash machines, the television and even the toaster - you'll be amazed how many items you use every day are all thanks to a savvy Scotsman.
Scotland's Present Inventions & Innovations
Today's generation of Scottish pioneers are at the cutting edge of countless fields, helping lead the rest of the world into a brighter, better future. From renewable energy advances to continuing Scotland's long tradition of medical innovation, here are some of the incredible things happening in Scotland right now.