Scottish Inventions

Written by kaye wagner
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Scottish Inventions
Today's bicycle is based on an early Scottish invention. (bicycle image by AGITA LEIMANE from

Scotland's rich history is rife with the country's contributions to discovery and invention. Its citizens are responsible for some prominent inventions that have changed the world, such as gas lighting, penicillin, bicycles and the raincoat.

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Gas Lighting

William Murdoch was a Scottish inventor who worked for many years on the steam engine. He invented the first model of a steam locomotive that was able to move by creating its own power. The invention he is more commonly known by, however, is coal gas lighting. In 1803 he developed and lit his house completely with gas lighting. The common lighting method at the time was candlelight, which required constant care. Murdoch never patented his invention and never made any money from it, but continued to outfit homes and factories with coal gas lighting systems.


Alexander Flemming was the Scottish bacteriologist who discovered penicillin, a mould culture that resists the spread of bacteria that changed modern medicine. Penicillin is used in many medical procedures to help fight off infections, a common cause of death for those in surgery. He was knighted for his work in 1944 and received a 1945 Nobel Prize.


With Scotland's damp and cold weather, it is no wonder that one of its citizens invented the raincoat. Charles MacIntosh was a Scottish born chemist who was attempting to make a fabric that would be waterproof. His goal was to use the fabric to make clothes for men going on expeditions to the Arctic. He met this goal in 1824 when Arctic explorers wore his waterproof coat. The coat was made with material that was sandwiching a thick layer of rubber. Today in Great Britain, the raincoat is still sometimes referred to as a MacIntosh or Mac. MacIntosh also invented a process to turn iron into steel that was faster than the current method.


In 1839, Scottish blacksmith Kirkpatrick Macmillan saw a child riding a hobbyhorse down a street and wondered if he could create a similar product that he could propel without putting his feet on the ground, according to BBC. His design was the first bicycle. It was considerably heavier than the modern bicycle and required strength to operate. Due to his failure to patent the product, he wasn't credited with the invention during his lifetime.

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