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A clan parade in Edinburgh.
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  • The bronze bust of scientist Sir Alexander Fleming in his hometown of Darvel, Ayrshire.
    Sir Alexander Fleming, the Scots scientist responsible for discovering penicillin
  • The John Muir Way, near Dunbar, East Lothian
    The John Muir Way, near Dunbar, East Lothian

From the decimal point and the world’s first bionic hand to things we can’t live without, including penicillin, television and the telephone, Scotland has been a world leader in innovation. The country’s long and fascinating history of scientific development and breakthroughs stretches back hundreds of years with pioneering work by Scots changing the face of human life as we know it.

John Logie Baird 1888 - 1946

Born in Helensburgh, Baird was a student of electrical engineering. Inventor of the world's first practical, publicly demonstrated television system in 1926, and also the world's first fully electronic colour television tube, demonstrated in 1928.

Alexander Graham Bell 1847 - 1922

Born in South Charlotte Street in Edinburgh's New Town, he emigrated to the United States due to ill health. He initially planned to invent a machine to help the deaf to hear. It was during the course of this research in Boston that he developed the telephone.

James Clerk-Maxwell 1831 - 1879

Son of a Dumfries landowner, Clark-Maxwell is often called one of the world's greatest physicists. He demonstrated that electric and magnetic fields travel through space in the form of waves and at the constant speed of light.  This theory predicted the existence of radio waves and was integral in the development of technology that we now take for granted, such as radio, TV and mobile phones.

Sir James Dewar 1842 - 1923

Dewar was born in Kincardine. He invented the vacuum flask whilst investigating the behaviour of gasses at low temperature. He is also credited with inventing cordite.

John Dunlop 1840 - 1921

Dunlop was born in Ayrshire and became a vet. It was his hobby as a cyclist that led him to change the tyres of a bicycle from solid rubber to having a pneumatic tyre. This development was fundamental in the development of the motor car.

Sir Alexander Fleming 1881 - 1955

Born in Loudoun in East Ayrshire, Fleming worked on anti-typhoid vaccines. He became famous for his discovery of penicillin in 1928 although the drug was not perfected for another 11 years.

Sir Charles Lyell 1797 - 1875

Sir Charles Lyell was born at Kinnordy House near Kirriemuir. He was a distinguished geologist and a great encouragement to Charles Darwin when he was laying the groundwork of evolutionary biology. In 1829, the first volume of his work Principals of Geology was published causing great controversy. The confliction between with science and religious faith was something he felt throughout his life.

John 'Tar' MacAdam 1736 - 1836

Born in Ayr, he was the inventor of the macadamising system of road making, commonly known as tarmac.

Charles MacIntosh 1766 - 1843

Born in Glasgow, he invented the waterproofing agent for the coat of the same name.

John Muir 1838 - 1914

Born in Dunbar, Muir was one of the most famous conservationists of his time. He influenced President Theodore Roosevelt to form America's first National Park. In Scotland, the John Muir Trust has reserves throughout the country, including areas in East Lothian, Knoydart, Skye and Sutherland.

John Napier 1550 - 1617

Napier was born in Merchiston Castle in Edinburgh, which is now part of the university named after him. He was an eminent mathematician and theorised the concept of logarithms. He also invented war machines including the forerunners of the armoured tank and the submarine. He also built Lauriston Castle in Edinburgh, which is now open to the public.

James Watt 1736 - 1819

Born in Greenock, Watt followed his father's trade of mathematical instrument maker. He patented an invention which was the prototype steam engine in 1769, whilst working at an ironworks in Falkirk and worked on further improving this in Birmingham. The unit of electrical power named after him was standardised in the 1880s.

James 'Paraffin' Young 1811 - 1883

Born in Glasgow, he realised the potential for extracting paraffin from oil-rich shales and coals. He went on to set up Scotland's oil industry.