Famous Scots

Adam, Robert

Robert Adam was a Scottish architect and designer. He was born in Kirkcaldy in 1728 and died in 1792. He was highly prolific and successful in both Scotland and England, he supervised the furnishing of his buildings down to the last detail, creating a distinctively elegant and highly influential style of interior decoration. In 1812 the architect Sir John Soane wrote: 'the light and elegant ornaments, the varied compartments in the ceilings of Mr Adam, imitated from Ancient Works in the Baths and Villas of the Romans, were soon applied in designs for chairs, tables, carpets, and in every other species of furniture.' Robert Adam gave work to a number of outstanding craftsmen, and Angelica Kauffmann and her husband Antonio Zucchi were among the artists who painted decorative panels for his interiors (examples by Zucchi are at 20 Portman Square, London, formerly the Courtauld Institute of Art). About 9,000 of Adam's drawings are in the Soane Museum in London.

Arrol, Sir William

Sir William Arrol was a Scottish engineer. He was born in 1839 and died in 1913. In 1868 he founded the firm of William Arrol and Company which was responsible for the Forth Bridge, Tower Bridge and the Manchester Ship Canal. In 1890 William Arrol was knighted and from 1895 until 1906 sat in Parliament as Liberal Unionist member for South Ayrshire.

Baird, John Logie

John Logie Baird was a Scottish scientist. He pioneered television. He was born in 1888 and died in 1946. Invented tv, 3-D and large screen tv. Patented fibre optics.

Barrie, Sir James M.

Peter Pan is a children's play written by J M Barrie (1860 - 1937) and first produced in 1904, it was a popular hit and established J M Barrie as a top playwright of the era. It featured actress Maude Adams, who had starred in several previous J M Barrie plays and joined him in a stage partnership.

Bell, Alexander Graham

Alexander Graham Bell was a Scottish inventor. He was born in Edinburgh in 1847 and died in 1922. He was educated at Edinburgh and in Germany, and settled in Canada in 1870. In 1872 he went to the United States and introduced for the education of deaf-mutes the system of visible speech contrived by his father Alexander Melville Bell. He became professor of vocal physiology in Boston University, and exhibited his telephone, designed and partly constructed some years before, at the Philadelphia exhibition in 1876.

Bell, Sir Charles

Sir Charles Bell was a Scottish surgeon. He was born in 1774 at Edinburgh and died in 1842. In 1799 he became a fellow of the Edinburgh College of Surgeons before removing to London in 1804, and becoming surgeon at the Middlesex Hospital in 1812, and professor of anatomy and surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons in 1824. In 1836 he returned to Edinburgh as professor of surgery at Edinburgh University. He discovered the distinct function of the nerves and in 1804 contributed his account of the nervous system to his brother John Bell's 'Anatomy of the Human Body'. He was knighted in 1831.

Bell, Rev Patrick

Invented the original reaping machine which directly led to the modern combine harvester. (1800 - 1869)

Black, Joseph

Joseph Black was a Scottish chemist. He was born in 1728 at Bordeaux and died in 1799. He was educated at Glasgow University and studied chemistry under Dr. Cullen. In 1754 he was made Doctor of Medicine at Edinburgh, his thesis being on the nature of the causticity of lime and the alkalies, which he demonstrated to be due to the absence of the carbonic acid present in limestone, etc. In 1756 he extended and republished this thesis, and was appointed professor of medicine and lecturer on chemistry at Glasgow in succession to Dr. Cullen, whom he succeeded also in the Edinburgh chair in 1766. The discovery of carbonic acid is of interest not only as having preceded that of the other gases made by Priestley, Cavendish, and others, but as having preceded in its method the explanation given by Lavoisier of the part played by oxygen in combustion. His fame, however, chiefly rests on his theory of 'latent heat,' 1757 to 1763.

Braid, James

James Braid was a Scottish professional golfer. He was born in 1870 and died in 1950. He was the first man to win the Open championship five times and was a founder member of the Professional Golfers Association, whose match-play championship he won four times.

Brewster, Sir David

Sir David Brewster was a British natural philosopher. He was born at Jedburgh in 1781 and died in 1868. He was educated at Edinburgh University for the church, but was attracted by the lectures of Robison and Playfair to science. In 1807 he was an unsuccessful candidate for the mathematical chair at St Andrews, but became in the same year MA of Cambridge, LLD. of Aberdeen, and member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, to the Transactions of which he contributed important papers on the polarization of light.

In 1808 he became editor of the Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, and in 1819, in conjunction with Jameson, founded the Edinburgh Philosophical Journal, of which he was sole editor from 1824 until 1832. David Brewster was one of the founders of the British Association, and its president in 1850. In 1832 he was knighted and pensioned, and both before and after this time his services to science obtained throughout Europe the most honourable recognition. From 1838 to 1859 he was principal of the united colleges of St Leonard's and St Salvador at St Andrews, and in the latter year was chosen principal of the University of Edinburgh - an office which he held until his death in 1868.

Among his inventions were the 'polyzonal lens' (introduced into British lighthouses in 1835), the kaleidoscope, and the improved stereoscope. His chief works are a Treatise on the Kaleidoscope published in 1829; Letters on Natural Magic published in 1831; Treatise on Optics (1831); More Worlds Than One (1854) and biographies of Euler, Newton, Galileo, Tycho Brahe and Kepler.

Brisbane, Sir Thomas

Soldier and Astronomer, born in Largs, Ayrshire. Governor-General of New South Wales, Australia. Set up an observatory and catalogued more than 7000 stars. The city of Brisbane (Australia) is named after him. (1773 - 1860)

Brown, George

Politician and a founding father of Canada, born and educated in Edinburgh. As an Ontario politician, he favoured a federation of the British Colonies in North America and spoke against the French Canadians, developing the deep divisions which persist today. (1818 - 1880)

Bruce, James

Explorer, born in Stirlingshire. Discovered the source of the Blue Nile in 1770. Was congratulated by the French, but the English did not believe him. (1730 - 1794)

Bruce, Robert The

King of Scotland, defeated the English at Bannockburn near Stirling in 1314. Received (1274 - 1329)

Bruce, William Speirs

Oceanographer and Polar Explorer. Studied medicine at Edinburgh University, and immediately thereafter became one of the first of his era to explore the Antarctic (1892). Leader of the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition which discovered Coats Land (1902-04). Founded the Scottish Oceanographically Laboratory in Edinburgh (1907). Advised Scott (1912) that his supply dumps were to far apart to succeed. (1867 - 1921)

Buchan, John

(Baron Tweedsmuir) Author And Biographer. Best known for his book "The Thirty-Nine Steps". Was also a member of parliament and Governor-General of Canada. (1875 - 1940)

Burns, Robert

Scotlands most famous poet.  His poems are translated in most languages and one of his most popular song must be  Auld Lang Syne which is sung world-wide. (1759 - 1796)

Carnegie, Andrew

US iron and steel magnate and philanthropist. Born Dunfermline (1835 - 1918)

Chalmers, James

Invented the adhesive postage stamp. (1782 - 1853)

Clark, James (Jim)

Twice world champion racing driver and won seven Grand prix races in a row, twenty-five in all, breaking the previous record of twenty-four. (1936 - 1968)

Cleghorn, George

Discovered that quinine during military service from bark which acted as a cure for malaria. (1716 - 1794)

Clerk, Sir Dugald

Invented the two stroke Clerk Cycle Gas Engine. (1854 - 1932)

Cochrane, Sir Ralph A

Air Chief Marshall of the Royal Air Force. Born in Springfield, Fife. He was responsible for planning bombing raids against German industry during World War II, including the 'Dambusters Raid' in 1943. (1895 - 1977)

Columba, Saint

The Irish missionary who founded the monastery on the Island of Iona in 563 in an attempt to convert the Picts. (c. 521 - 597)

Connery, Sean

Actor, best known as James Bond. (1930- )

Conti, Tom

Stage and Film Actor. Film roles include "Reuben, Reuben" (1983), for which he received an academy award nomination. (1941 - )

Dalrymple, Sir Hugh

Invented hollow-pipe drainage ( which would have been stone filled culverts before )allowing large areas of water-logged land to be brought into agriculture production. (1700 - 1753)

Dewar, Sir James

Inventor of the vacuum flask. (1842 - 1923)

Douglas, David

Botanist. Born in Scone (Perthshire). Discovered more than 200 new plant species in North America, including the Douglas Fir. Died from injuries received from wild bull having fallen into bull pit in Hawaii. (1798 - 1834)

Douglas, Sir John

(8th Marquis of Queensbury) Devised the "Queensbury Rules" for boxing. (1844 - 1900)

Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan

Creator of the detective Sherlock Holmes. (1859 - 1930)

Dunlop, John Boyd

Developed the pneumatic tyre. (1840 - 1921)

Fairbairn, Sir William

Engineer who developed the use of tubular steel in construction which was much stronger than solid steel. (1789 - 1874)

Ferguson Adam

Father of Sociology. (1723 - 1816)

Ferguson, Patrick

Invented the breech-loading rifle. (1744 - 1780)

Fleming, Sir Alexander

Discovered the world's first antibiotic drug ? Penicillin. (1881 - 1955)

Fleming, Sir Sanford

Inventor of Standard Time. Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland. (1827-1915)

Forsyth, Rev Alexander

Inventor of the percussion cap which was later developed into the modern bullet. (1769 - 1848)

Ged, William

Inventor of the "Lost Wax" process of metal casting used for producing delicate designs, especially in jewellery and dentistry. (1690 - 1749)

Geddes, Sir Patrick

Born in Ballater but came to fame in Edinburgh as the Father of town planning. (1854 - 1932)

Glover, Thomas Blake

Born in Aberdeenshire he went to China and then Japan where he was awarded the "Order of the Rising Sun" for his contribution to its modernisation. (1838 - 1911)

Graham, Thomas

Formulated Graham's Law on the diffusion of gases. Father of colloid chemistry. (1805 - 1869)

Gregory, James

Inventor of the reflecting telescope which was later developed by Sir Isaac Newton. (1638 - 1675)

Haig, Earl

Field Marshall in Command of the British troops in the first world war and was known as 'Butcher Haig' due to his enormous inconsideration to the life of his men. (1861 - 1928)

Hill, David Octavius

Pioneer of photography. (1802 - 1870)

Hutton, James

Father of modern Geology.  (1726 - 1797)

Jones, John Paul

Born in Dunfermline he Established the US Navy. (1747 - 1792)

Kid, Captain William

The famous 'Captain Kid' born in Greenock Renfrewshire. (1645 - 1701)

Liddel, Eric Hendry

Gold and Bronze Medal winner in the 1924 Olympics. (1902 - 1945)

Lipton, Sir Thomas

Started the soccer World Cup in 1910. (1850 - 1931)

Lister, Joseph

Pioneered the use of antiseptics drastically reducing post-operative deaths. (1827 - 1912)

Livingstone, David

Explorer and health pioneer. Discovered the Victoria Falls. (1813 - 1873)

McAdam John

Developed the process of "Macadamisation",  known as its trade name 'tarmac' creating a hard road surface from small stones to form a hard. (1756 - 1836)

MacDonald, James Ramsay

Politician and British Prime Minister. Led the first Labour government in 1924. (1866 - 1937)

MacDonald, Sir John Alexander

First Prime Minister of Canada, central figure in the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway. (1815 - 1891)

Macmillan, Kirkpatrick

Invented the bicycle but never patented it. (1813 - 1878)

McGonagall, William Topaz

Considered by some people as the worst poet in Scotland. Born Edinburgh but lived most of his life in Dundee. (1830 - 1902)

Mackenzie,Sir Alexander

The first person to journey down the Mackenzie river which bears his name. (1764 - 1820)

Mackintosh, Charles

Inventor of the raincoat. (1766 - 1843)

Mackintosh, Charles Rennie

Scottish designer and architect who created a unique art nouveau style. (1868 - 1928)

Maxwell, James Clerk

Prepared the way for quantum physics, one of the world's greatest physicists. (1831 - 1879)

Meikle, Andrew

Inventor of the threshing machine. (1719 - 1811)

Muir, John

Founder of the US national Park system and regarded as the father of the modern environmental movement. (1834 - 1914)

Murdock, William

Inventor of coal-gas lighting. (1754 - 1839)

Napier, John

Inventor of logarithms and the decimal point. (1550 - 1617)

Neilson, James Beaumont

Invented the hot blast furnace for steel making. (1792 - 1865)

Niven, David

Born in Kirriemuir was regarded by many as an English Actor. (1909 - 1983)

Park, Mungo

Mapped large areas of the interior of Africa for the first time, determined the course of the river Niger. (1771 - 1806)

Paterson, William

Born in Dumfriesshire was the founder of the Bank of England. (1658 - 1719)

Pillans, James

Invented the blackboard and coloured chalks. (1778 - 1864)

Pinkerton, Allan

Formed the first detective agency in Chicago. (1819 - 1884)

Ramsay, Sir William

Responsible for the discovery of rare gases, Helium, Argon, Neon, Krypton, Xenon. Set up the Indian Institute. (1852 - 1916)

Redpath, Jean

Famous Scottish singer who sang with such panache at the re-opening of the Scottish Parliament.

Rennie, John

Engineer built Southwark, Waterloo and London (now in Arizona) bridges. (1761 - 1801)

Scott, Sir Walter

Poet and Author of many famous works and his Biography of Napoleon. (1771 - 1832)

Selkirk, Alexander

Seaman and Castaway. Born in the fishing village of Lower Largo in Fife. Selkirk was the model for Daniel Defoe's "Robinson Crusoe" (published 1719), having lived for more than four years on the uninhabited island of Juan Fernandez.  (1676 - 1721)

Shand, Jimmy

Jimmy Shand and his Band were famous Scottish musicians who frequently appeared on local television shows with his distinctive style of Scottish Dance Band Music

Simpson, Sir James Young

Pioneer in the use of anaesthetics, particularly chloroform. (1800 - 1862)

Sim, Alistair

Born in Edinburgh he is remembered primarily as a comedy Actor. (1900 - 1976)

Slessor, Mary

Missionary in West Africa, known as Greta Mother by Nigerians. (1848 - 1915)

Small, James

Inventor of the iron plough. (1730 - 1793)

Smith, Adam

Adam Smith was a Scottish economist. He was born in 1723 at Kirkcaldy and died in 1790. Educated at Kirkcaldy and the University of Glasgow in 1740 he went to Balliol College, Oxford. In 1748 he began to lecture in Edinburgh, and in 1751 was chosen professor of logic at Glasgow, where from 1752 until 1763 he was professor of moral philosophy. In 1764 he went abroad with a pupil, the duke of Buccleuch, after which he gave ten years mainly to writing and study. In 1776 the result of his labour appeared in the first scientific work on the principles of economy, 'The Wealth of Nations'. Two years later he was appointed a commissioner of customs, a post he held until his death. Although remembered as an economist, Adam Smith also enunciated a philosophy of his own, that all our sentiments arise from sympathy, and published his thoughts in 1759 in a book entitled 'Theory of Moral Sentiments'.

Stewart Jackie

Three times Formula One World Champion. (1939 - ) 

Stevenson, Robert Louis

Author. His works included "Kidnapped" and "Treasure Island". Suffered from poor health and died in Samoa. (1850 - 1894)

Stirling Sir David A. DSO, OBE

Scots Guards and founder of the SAS (1915 - 1990)

Thomson, Robert William

Invented the vulcanised rubber pneumatic tyre. Also invented the fountain pen and steam traction engine. (1822 - 1873)

Vettriano, Jack

Jack Vettriano is a prolific modern artist famous for such works as "The Singing Butler" and many others.

Watson-Watt, Sir Robert A.

Invented Radar. (1892 - 1973)

Watt, James

Developed the steam engine and the governor for speed control. (1736 - 1819)

Witherspoon, John

Framed the American Declaration of Independence and was one of the signatories. (1723 - 1794)

Young, James

Developed the process of refining oil and created the world's first oil industry. (1811 - 1883)


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Last updated Wednesday, January 5, 2022