Great Scots—Inventors Of The Modern World

by Margaret of our readers

Did you know that the Scots have invented everything from marmalade to the lawn-mower and even flushing toilets? Take a moment to consider just some of the Scots who have contributed to your world. Scottish writer, storyteller and ‘rhymer’ Paraig MacNeil, who is also bard to the Clan MacGregor, has put together the true stories of fifty influential Scots, including economist Adam Smith, James Watt (inventor of steam engine), Thomas Telford (engineer and builder of famous bridges) and John Loudon MacAdam (who revolutionized road-making by inventing tarmac). Edinburgh clock and watch-maker Alexander Cumming invented a water closet which could be flushed upon the pull of a lever. Alexander Shanks invented the Shanks machine, the direct predecessor of the modern lawnmower and James Nasmyth invented the steam hammer. Historians and statisticians will know of Sir John Sinclair, Laird of Ulbster, Caithness, took on the enormous task of compiling the First Statistical Account of Scotland in 1791. The national bard Robert Burns is featured, as well as less well-known names John Broadwood, inventor of the grand piano, whose customers included Mozart, Chopin and Beethoven as well as Robert Smith, a baker’s son from Dalkeith who emigrated to Philadelphia in the 1700s, as America’s first true architect. Some little known Scots had enormous influence overseas, such as Helen Gloag of Perthshire, who became Empress of Morocco and abolished black slavery there in the 18th century. Americans will know of John Ross (Cherokee) who became the elected head of the first ever independent American Indian nation and also John Paul Jones, from Kirkcudbright, founder of the US Navy. Botanical explorer David Douglas of Scone, near Perth, gave his name to the Douglas fir tree as well as a further 200 plants and Alexander Wilson, father of American ornithology, was a Scottish weaver who fled to America and became devoted to observing birds.

The Perthshire author said that his passion for telling these stories in rhyme began with a concern that without permanent recognition they may be been forgotten entirely. Furthermore, he wanted Scots all over the world to recognize their own potential and follow in the footsteps of their forefathers. We may well consider that, in everyday life, we should thank Scotland’s John Logie Baird (inventor of television), Alexander Graham Bell (inventor of the telephone, who lived in Badeck) and Alexander Fleming, who discovered penicillin. Proud to be Scottish?

You can read all about these great Scots in Brainheart, by Paraig MacNeil, published by Luath Press, Edinburgh, price £6.99 (around 10 dollars) and available via Amazon Books.



collected by cecilia