Scottish Inventors

Inventions have changed the world, but who are the people who have given us them? The Scottish have made major contributions. Here are a few.

Like mankind, the world has come from somewhat humble beginnings, and it has been undergoing a constant metamorphosis since the beginning of time. But that is where the correlation stops, for it is due to the innovations of man that we owe our way of life, not natural selection or evolution or any other so-called laws of nature. For example, the television, although it incorporates certain scientific principles, can be traced back to a single individual's work and foresight, John Logie Baird. And Baird has something in common with many of the other men and women that have given us some our most coveted advances and conveniences. Baird was born a Scotsman.

Although Scotland is a relatively tiny country with a total population of just over 5 million today, its people have produced some of the most influential inventions in history. John Logie Baird began his career of discovery at a very young age and even blacked out a large area of Glasgow in his early trials as a child. But, after some practice and years of work, Baird managed to transmit the first television picture in 1926, a simple image from one room of a building to another. Just two years later in 1928, the first transatlantic broadcast was achieved. Logie had created the first television, and history has never been the same since.

Alexander Graham Bell is another inventor of Scottish descent and may, in fact, be its most recognisable namesake when speaking of inventors. He began his career in the footsteps of his father as a teacher to the deaf. Through his interest in the physics and principles of sound, Bell began experimenting with transmitters, electromagnetic coils, and iron diaphragms to develop crude forms of the early telephone. Bell was on the verge of redefining communication as the world had known it. He was finally successful in March of 1876 with a short but highly important message to his assistant. And what were the first words delivered via telephone? "Come here Mr. Watson, I want to see you."



The field of medicine has also been changed greatly by the ingenuity of the Scots. Edinburgh physician, James Young Simpson, came up with an idea that changed the course of medicine to this day - anaesthesia. Prior to Simpson's discovery of chloroform, patients were at a much greater risk and sometimes even had to be knocked out for surgery. Simpson's advances in medicine proved to be invaluable coupled with the innovations of another Scot, Josepth Lister. Lister gave us perhaps the most important advance with the inception of using antiseptics in surgery. Having noticed that one in every two people died following surgery, Lister decided to attempt to correct this enormous problem. In 1860, Lister was the professor of surgery at Glasgow University. He imposed a strict code of cleanliness by cleaning instruments in a disinfectant, and the results proved to revolutionize surgery forever. The number of casualties dropped dramatically, and many other hospitals began to follow in his Glasgow University surgery's footsteps.

But not every invention was of such an enormous magnitude. Others have served their purpose well by making our lives easier and more convenient. It may also come as no surprise that the Scottish have brought us many of these everyday breakthroughs. For example, it was a Scot who brought us the basic vacuum cleaner. Before Hubert Booth created his version of the vacuum in 1901, it took two people to operate the Hoover (not to mention that it could only blow, not suck). His idea has made housework much easier since those days. And something as common as a thermos flask was once the thing of dreams, but this all ended when Professor Watt came up with the concept that has been keeping our lunches warm for decades. Could there possibly be any more? Well, the pneumatic tire, radar, penicillin, and even the theories of Electro-magnetism can be traced back to natives of Scotland, but this British country's contributions have proved to outweigh even the scope of this article.

It is quite difficult to imagine a world without the modern conveniences and important advances that we often take for granted. What a different place we would live in if television or even the practical invention of a simple vacuum cleaner were never created. It is indeed arguable that invention has had as much effect upon the course of history as politicians and governments, but inventors are largely unanimous figures, forgotten but for their creations. It is important to pay homage to those who have paved the way towards our modern way of life. And there are perhaps no other people to thank more than the Scottish. For such a small nation, Scotland has always been a major player on the field of discovery.

© High Speed Ventures 2011