25 Scottish Inventions that Changed the World

Great Scottish Inventions and Inventors

I am a very patriotic lass and always have been. I love Scotland and I love Scottish people. We have the best banter, the sexiest scenery, the friendliest folk and the most dapper drams in the whole wide world. We have a reputation globally for being wild, kilt-wearing, haggis-munching, whisky-downing, heavily-spoken riots. Which, is a completely fair analysis. However, there are many other things Scotland is famous for. We have put together this list of Scottish inventions created by famous Scottish inventors, purely so we can show off. I’ll drink to that.

25 Scottish Inventions that have Changed the World

When a policeman asks a Scottish person to hop on one foot, whilst saying the alphabet backwards after drinking a whole bottle of Single malt, you better bet they (mostly) nail it. As a multi-tasking, tartan-donning nation, we are pretty much the mince to your tatties. This is why you kiss an Irish man but it’s a Scotsman you take home.

Although famously traditional in culture, it’s time to find out how Scotland invented the modern world with our list of Scottish inventors and inventions. Not that I’m bragging or anything. These Scottish inventions aren’t in any particular order. It’s just that I’m a little bit biased…

Gin and Tonic

Scottish Inventions - Gin Tonic

So we didn’t invent gin… But we did nail the mixer. Scottish Doctor George Cleghorn definitely had his priorities in check. Back in the 1700’s, he found that quinine was the perfect solution for treating malaria. Therefore, British Officers working in India would drink quinine to protect themselves from the deadly disease. They added sugar, water, lime and well, gin to the quinine to take away the rough taste. And with that, the G & T was born. Quinine is used in tonic water today but at a much lower level and is dissolved to give tonic it’s eclectic taste.

People all over Scotland have been using the *ahem* ‘medication’ to avoid the inevitable threat of malaria in Scotland to this day… Unfortunately gin is not covered on our National Health Service or I have a feeling most of us would be far more ill, far more often. Of all the great Scottish inventions, I personally, would like to thank big George for this one.


Scottish Inventions - TV

Netflix would be no-flix and Amazon would be Ama-gone without this colourful wee box. Whether you’re enjoying a greasy takeaway in front of it or flicking through the ridiculous amount of channels, it’s safe to say that the television is a staple of modern life. Where would we be without famous Scottish inventor, John Logie Baird? He gave his first demonstration of a working television in 1925. I know I would certainly be a lot more active without it, cheers John.


Scottish Inventions - Penicillin

When I woke up just after dawn on September 28, 1928, I certainly didn’t plan to revolutionise all medicine by discovering the world’s first antibiotic, or bacteria killer. But I suppose that was exactly what I did. – Alexander Fleming

The Discovery of Penicillin

Pencillin often comes to mind when thinking of things invented in Scotland. However, not many people know the slightly gruesome backstory.

During World War 1, famous Scottish scientist, Alexander Fleming witnessed many a wounded warrior succumb to his injuries. Sepsis in particular, was a killer once it made its way into a nasty wound. Unfortunately, the antiseptic used to treat these wounds may have looked like it was working on the surface however, it wasn’t aiding the infection underneath the skin. It was also killing off some of the friendlier bacteria which was needed to protect and prevent the infection spreading. Alexander Fleming spent many years studying various secretions from the human body, along with a variety of staph infections.

Ironically, Fleming actually found Penicillin when he was on his holidays (and all I do is find sunburn and my overdraft). Fleming had been working on particular staph cultures before leaving for his holidays. When he returned, he found that one of his cultures had grown a nasty looking fungus and that the staph surrounding this fungus had been destroyed. Cultures further away were completely normal. He continued to grow the fungus on its own and found that it produced a substance which killed a variety of bacterial infections. Alas, penicillin or as Fleming previously called it, ‘mould juice‘ was born. With that, Alexander Fleming’s name went down in history as one of the most famous Scottish scientists. The Scottish invention went on to save millions of lives.


Scottish Inventions - Halloween

Samhain (pronounced ‘sow-in’) translating to ‘Summers End’ was a traditional pagan festival held in Scotland thousands of years ago to mark the end of harvest. The orange glow associated with Halloween represents the Autumnal colours. During Samhain, bonfires were lit and practical jokes and games were a prime part of the festivities.

Superstition believed that ghosts of the deceased could mingle with the living during the festival and may turn up at your door for money or food. Should you leave your creepy visitor empty-handed, you could risk being haunted or cursed. This is where the trick or treating tradition comes from. The name ‘Halloween’ comes from the previous name ‘All Hallows Eve.’ When I was growing up, we spent Halloween dressing up, trick or treating and dipping our faces in buckets of water to catch apples with our teeth. However, as the years roll on, Halloween has become far more commercial with some of the previous traditions dying off. BRING THEM BACK FOLKS!


Scottish Inventions - toaster

Why would you have bread when you could have hot, hard bread? This is exactly what was going through famous Scottish scientist, Alan MacMaster’s head back in 1893 when he created the ingenious toaster.

With a name like MacMaster, he has to invent something mega. With that, I’ll take plum jam and a good inch of butter.


Scottish Inventions - the BBC

Ah, the BBC. The home to the two best Davids in the world; David Attenborough, David Dimbleby, I love them both. The BBC has been hit with a bit of a bad reputation over the last few years, particularly with many believing the broadcasting publication is media biased. Considering I only really use the BBC for Masterchef, Louis Theroux and Question Time, I am not massively affected. However if you are, you can blame it on John Reith, 1st Baron Reith from Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire. He was the first general director when the BBC went public in 1927. With that, I’ll BBC-ing you later. 😉

Decimal Points

I’ll be completely honest, I’m not really thanking John Napier for either logarithms nor decimal points. Both of which were a bug-bearer to the useless mathematician within me and made for a rather painful few years studying maths in school. So, good ‘point’ John but I’m not really rating it. SorryNotSorry.

Chicken Tikka Masala

Scottish Inventions - Chicken Tikka Masala

Apparently an Indian is the most popular takeaway in the UK. I personally, am not a big fan of Indian food because I would eat China if possible. However for those interested in the masala method, the rumours are true. Supposedly, the spicy dish originated in Glasgow by a Mr Ali Ahmed Aslam, owner of Glaswegian culinary beacon, the Shish Malal. Aslam invented the dish after one of his customers complained about dry chicken.  He used a tin of Campbell’s condensed tomato soup (that he only had in stock to help ease a stomach ulcer) and a pile of spices, to create the masala marvel and in that moment, a legend was born. He was reported to have said ‘you chicken me out?

The Telephone

Scottish Inventions - Telephone

He might not have invented smart phones but Scottish inventor, Alexander Graham Bell was smart and he did invent the phone. Ever thought about why people say ‘I’ll give you a bell.’ That is because of the big Bell who paved the way for social media today. Bell would be turning in his grave if he knew how many re-tweets this shocking article is going to get. You can ring my be-eh-ellllll, ring my bell. RING MY, RING MY BELL.

Flushing Toilets

Scottish Inventions - Flushing Toilets

Scottish watch and instrument maker Alexander Cumming really did give a crap when it came to, em, crap? Although he might not have come up with the original concept, he certainly went down with the removal process. Cumming patented the indispensable bend (a plumbing thingy) which is integral in the removal of your bowel leakage. Although I think we should also give a nod to whoever created air freshener because with my man on the loose, even Alexander Cumming couldn’t remove all of the evidence.

Criminal Finger-printing

It is no secret that Scotland has a fairly bloodied history, loaded with war and criminals of every spec. If it wasn’t for Henry Faults, then modern-day criminals wouldn’t to be so careful.

Whilst he was on an archaeological mission with a friend, he noticed that finger prints were apparent on ancient clay fragments. Faults turned this into his life’s work into creating a way of identifying criminals by their fingers-prints. Scottish inventions like this, have helped many a deceiving criminal see adequate justice.


Scottish Inventions - golf

It is heavily debated as to who first put a ball in a hole with a stick and called it golf. However Scotland is the land of golf courses. Our golf courses are second to none, with spectacular views and a great slug of booze for after the game. Supposedly the great game originated in Scotland before spreading to the rest of the United Kingdom, the British Empire and the USA. Whilst on the subject, there is a pretty incredible golf course near our house with castle and coastal views, named Cruden Bay Golf Club. Shameless plug.


Scottish Inventions - USA

Okay, this one is a bit of a long shot. America isn’t really a Scottish invention but have you ever met an American who doesn’t have a great, great, great, great, great, great, great grand-mother (twice-removed) who was Scottish on their fathers side? Are you even American if some long-forgotten ancestor wasn’t Scottish? Us Scottish know your game but guess what, YOU STILL SUCK at our accent Mel Gibson.

Sticky Stamps

Scottish Inventions Sticky Stamps

James Chalmers, born in Arbroath claimed that his old man (dad) invented sticky stamps. To be completely honest, there are many a wind-up merchant in Scotland and as far as I’m concerned my father invented the chest of drawers. However for Chalmers, the story sort of ‘stuck’ as by 1840 the sticky stamp was sticking stamps to stuff all over the shop. James’ father received no official pat on the back for his creation however someone got the idea from someone and doesn’t that make for a good story…


Scottish Inventions - Cloning

Dolly the sheep. Oh Dolly. I’m still genuinely confused as to why us Scottish were so keen to clone a sheep. We have so many sheep. Did you know there are 42 sheep to every eyebrow in Scotland? That… is not the truth. But sheep? Really? Not whisky, or gin?

Dolly was born in 1996 at the Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh. She was the first ever mammal to be cloned through the nuclear transfer from an adult somatic cell. I don’t know what half of that means and even if the process could create another ‘me’ to help with my workload then I still wouldn’t want to be near nuclear anything. Big Dolly had 3 mums.

Hypodermic Syringe

Scottish Inventions - Hypodermic Syringe

Anybody who is chilled out around needles, is a lunatic and a bare-faced liar. Syringes aren’t fun. I would rather stand in a cold shower ripping up fivers than face a syringe. However, that being said, the hypodermic syringe is, on the face of it, medical genius and has saved millions of lives all over the world. Famous Scottish scientist, Alexander Wood, born in Fife is to thank for every time the nurse says ‘you’ll just feel a slight scratch.’ Slight scratch? Try dagger wound.

MRI Machines

Scottish Inventions - MRI

‘I’m going to get an MRI to find out if I have claustrophobia’ – Steven Wright

The MRI scanner is said to be a safer tool for body imaging than the X-Ray and the imagic-al MRI machine comes from none other than my adopted home of Aberdeen. It was officially invented in 1980 by a team of researchers at the University of Aberdeen.


Scottish Inventions - Kaleidoscopes

So the Scottish inventor who invented the Kaleidoscope went to Edinburgh University at the age of 12… Pretty sure I was still learning how to say my first words then. Sir David Brewster was a child genius and completed a Theology course at Uni whilst also teaching himself how to be a philosopher, mathematician and astronomer (and I took 3 days to write this blog post). Perhaps not one of the Scottish inventions that changed the world but maybe contributed by 0.0004%.

Your Fridge

Scottish Inventions - fridge

Okay well maybe not your exact fridge, that probably came from Argos. However, we all have a certain man to thank for the extra inches round our waist lines because let’s be serious, he probably had something to do with all those epic fresh cream cakes. *Drools on laptop, takes a cake break.* Scottish physician and chemist, William Cullen, created the basis for modern refrigeration back in the mid 1700’s. He was obviously keen for a cheese string. (that part was a lie). Cheers for making me fat, Willy.


Scottish Inventions - Bike

Kirkpatrick Macmillan was a bit of a wild one. He was actually fined a massive 5 shillings for knocking a young lass down in Glasgow City Centre with his bike. I can just imagine all his pals laughing at him thinking he was a mad beggar for creating such an odd contraption. He took the idea from a German inventor but added extra bits and bobs (like pedals) to ensure the thing actually worked. So I guess it is half Scottish, half German. We don’t mind people stealing our limelight when it is deserved.


Scottish Inventions - tyres

This might sound boring but to be totally fair, if we didn’t have tyres then the Queen would have to walk places and we just can’t have that now can we? Also, you wouldn’t get to work, you’d have to walk to the shops and in all honesty, obesity would be WAY down. With all of that being said, without tyres, I wouldn’t be able to blog and then what would all of you read? So big thank you to Robert Thomson and John Boyd Dunlop for coming up with one of the greatest Scottish inventions. That was tyre-ing… 😉


Scottish Inventions - Encyclopedia

BAH! All of those people that put subtitles on during Outlander and Braveheart (I’m not judging, even I struggle understanding my own language) would be amazed to know that the oldest encyclopedia in the English language was published in Edinburgh. Life existed before Google.

The Bank of England

Scottish Inventions - bank of england

I wasn’t even going to mention this but needs must. A Scottish man by the name of Sir William Paterson was the first to put forward the idea of a ‘Bank of England’ and things have only escalated since then.

‘Don’t mess with the Scottish, they are temperamental, half temper, half mental.’

Grand Theft Auto

Scottish Inventions - grand theft auto

When GTA 5 launched, it became the best-selling game of all time in the US. Grand Theft Auto is the baby of Scottish video game design legend David Jones, who previously had DMA Designs, now known as Rockstar North. Rockstars headquarters are based right beside the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh.

Elvis Presley

Scottish Inventions - elvis

I couldn’t resist. Has anybody ever told you that Elvis is originally from Aberdeenshire? Didn’t think so. So although he is not technically ‘Scottish Scottish,’ some nutter (probably my granny, his biggest fan) decided to trace back his roots and found out that they went all the way back to a wee village named Lonmay in Aberdeenshire. So you could say Aberdeen invented rock’n’roll. No?

Lonmay is definitely hanging on to this story as they have created a brand new tartan in recognition of the strange connection. The Presley of Lonmay tartan was created and the only hotel in Lonmay is supposedly decked out in it. Anything for a wee bit of tourism.

Scottish Wisdom

Scottish Inventions - Scottish Wisdom

That brings me to the end of our interesting AF list of Scottish Inventions that Changed the World. However, I thought I would leave you all with some cracking Scottish quotes that I found on ye olde’ internet. Enjoy!

Kilt, is what happened to the last person who called it a skirt.

Alcohol doesn’t solve any problem but neither does milk.

Forgive your enemy, but remember the buggers name.

You know you’re Scottish when something gies ye the boke.

There are two seasons in Scotland, June and Winter.



The Chief.