“Of all the small nations of this Earth, perhaps only the ancient Greeks surpass the Scots in their contribution to mankind.”

This quote is often attributed to Sir Winston Churchill, but some, including the International Churchill Society, claim there is no evidence that he ever said it.

Whatever the truth of the matter, it is hard to deny that, for a country of fewer than 6 million people, Scotland has made an indelible impression on the world.

Sir Winston Churchill

Whether you are a Scot still living in Scotland but thinking about emigrating, you are a Scot already living in another country but who needs help or assistance with a problem you have encountered, or you are foreign born and bred and have never set foot in Scotland but are keen to research your Scottish ancestry or just want to learn more about Scotland with a view to possibly visiting the country, ExpatScots.com aims to help you to find the information you need.

scotland's contribution to the world - where to begin?

Scotland has a rich history of contributing groundbreaking inventions and discoveries that have left an indelible mark on the global stage. Here are some noteworthy contributions:

  1. Penicillin: Discovered by Scotsman Alexander Fleming in 1928, penicillin revolutionized medicine by introducing the first widely used antibiotic, saving countless lives.
  2. Television: John Logie Baird, a Scottish engineer, played a pivotal role in the invention of television. His work laid the foundation for the development of this transformative communication medium.
  3. Dolly the Sheep: Scotland made history in 1996 with the successful cloning of Dolly, the first mammal cloned from an adult somatic cell. This achievement opened new possibilities in genetics and biotechnology.
  4. The Telephone: Although Alexander Graham Bell spent much of his life in Canada and the U.S., he was born in Scotland. His invention of the telephone transformed communication worldwide.
  5. MRI Scanner: Although English physicist Sir Peter Mansfield is credited with developing the MRI Scanner, the breakthrough was made by a team working at the University of Aberdeen. The MRI scanner has become a crucial tool in medical diagnostics, enabling detailed imaging of internal structures without radiation exposure.
  6. The Steam Engine: An invention that powered the Industrial Revolution, the steam engine had significant contributions from Scottish engineers like James Watt, whose improvements revolutionized steam technology.

These innovations represent just a glimpse of the profound impact Scotland has had on various fields, from medicine to communications and technology. The spirit of Scottish inventors continues to inspire creativity and progress globally.

scottish innovations that have helped to shape the world

medicine & science

  • Penicillin (1928): Alexander Fleming's accidental discovery of penicillin's antibiotic properties led to the development of this life-saving drug, revolutionizing medicine and combating countless infections.
  • Local Anesthesia (1884): Cocaine, first isolated by Scottish chemist Thomas Anderson, was initially used by Carl Koller as a topical anesthetic in eye surgery, paving the way for safer and less painful medical procedures.
  • The Discovery of Insulin (1922): The discovery of insulin by a team at the University of Toronto, including Scottish-born researcher  John James Richard MacLeod, provided a crucial treatment for diabetes, saving countless lives. While James Banting and Charles Best made the initial discovery, MacLeod played a crucial role in isolating and purifying insulin.
  • Chloroform (1842): James Young Simpson discovered the anesthetic properties of chloroform, leading to safer and more humane pain management in surgery.
  • Chloral Hydrate (1842): James Young Simpson, the same inventor of chloroform, also discovered the sedative properties of chloral hydrate, impacting pain management and anesthesia practices.
  • Listerine (1879): Joseph Lister, an English surgeon and scientist who carried out some of his work in Edinburgh, was a pioneer in antisepsis who developed the formula for Listerine, which contributed to improved hygiene and infection control practices.  While originally an antiseptic solution, Lister's formula later evolved into the iconic Listerine mouthwash, still popular today.
  • The Roslin Institute: This world-renowned research institute continues to be at the forefront of genetics and regenerative medicine, making significant contributions to various fields.
  • Dolly the Sheep (1996): The Roslin Institute in Scotland successfully cloned Dolly the sheep, marking a significant advancement in genetics and reproductive technology.  Ian Wilmut, alongside Keith Campbell, led the team at the Roslin Institute that successfully cloned Dolly.
  • Dolly the Sheep's Offspring (2003): The Roslin Institute continued pushing boundaries by creating the first cloned mammal from adult cells, Polly the sheep.
  • Pathology: William Cullen, known for his early refrigeration experiments, also founded the Edinburgh School of Medicine, making significant contributions to pathology and clinical teaching.
  • Ultrasound (1956): Ian Donald, a Scottish physician, pioneered the use of ultrasound in obstetrics, revolutionizing prenatal diagnosis and monitoring.
  • Gene Editing (2013): Matthew Porteous, a Scottish researcher, made significant contributions to the development of CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology, holding vast potential for medicine and other fields.
  • The Edinburgh Phrenological Society (19th century): While now considered pseudoscience, this Scottish society pioneered brain mapping techniques, influencing later studies of neuroanatomy.
  • The Edinburgh Medical School (1764): One of the world's oldest medical schools, it has produced numerous influential physicians and researchers, contributing to advancements in various medical fields.
  • The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (1761): This renowned botanical garden has played a vital role in plant conservation, research, and public education.
  • The Theory of Plate Tectonics (1960s): While not solely a Scottish innovation, Scottish geologist Ian Tocher was one of several key contributors to developing this theory, explaining continental movement and Earth's geological processes.

communications & technology

  • Telephone (1876): While the debate surrounding the true inventor continues, Alexander Graham Bell, a Scottish-born immigrant in Canada, is widely credited with developing the first practical telephone, forever changing communication.
  • Telephone Exchange (1879): Thomas Edison received credit for the switchboard, but Alexander Graham Bell's assistant, Thomas A. Watson, played a crucial role in its development.
  • Television (1926): John Logie Baird demonstrated the world's first public television transmission, laying the groundwork for the electronic entertainment revolution that permeates modern life.
  • The First Colour Television Broadcast (1937): John Logie Baird, alongside Vladimir Zworykin, achieved the first public demonstration of a color television system in London.
  • ATM Machine (1967): James Goodfellow, working for Smiths Industries, created the first automated teller machine with a PIN system, enabling convenient cash withdrawals worldwide.
  • The First ATM Network (1967): Barclays Bank in Scotland launched the first national ATM network, revolutionizing cash access and banking convenience.
  • Financial Technology: Edinburgh is a global center for FinTech, fostering innovation in areas like digital banking and online payments.
  • Radar (1935): Robert Alexander Watson-Watt played a crucial role in developing radar technology, a vital innovation for wartime defense and later air traffic control and navigation.
  • First Color Photograph (1843): David Brewster laid the groundwork for color photography with his experiments using light filters and multiple exposures.
  • Self-Driving Buses (2023): Edinburgh is currently trialing one of the world's first self-driving bus services, showcasing Scotland's commitment to autonomous vehicle technology.
  • The Penny Black (1840): James Chalmers, a Scottish printer and engraver, designed the world's first adhesive postage stamp, the Penny Black, revolutionizing mail communication. Although attributed to Sir Rowland Hill, Chalmers played a significant role in its development.
  • The Kelvin Scale (1848): Lord Kelvin, born in Belfast but educated in Scotland, developed the Kelvin scale, still used in scientific applications today.
  • Mobile Phone Data Networking (1992): William Cundy, while working for Motorola in Scotland, played a key role in developing the GSM standard for mobile phone data networks, used worldwide today.
  • The Edinburgh Courant (1718): One of the oldest surviving newspapers in the English language, The Courant played a role in shaping early communication and news dissemination.
  • Quantum Computing: Researchers at the University of Edinburgh are at the forefront of quantum computing research, exploring its potential to revolutionize computing power.
  • The Data Lab (2013): Established in Edinburgh, this non-profit organization has made significant contributions to data science and its applications in various sectors.

engineering & industry

  • Steam Engine (1776): James Watt's revolutionary improvements on the steam engine, including the separate condenser, paved the way for the Industrial Revolution, powering factories and transportation worldwide.
  • Thermodynamic Cycle (1859): William John Macquorn Rankine's theoretical framework laid the foundation for modern power generation systems, analyzing heat engines and defining concepts like efficiency and entropy.
  • Coal-gas Lighting (1792): William Murdoch pioneered the use of coal gas for illumination, leading to brighter and cleaner lighting in homes and streets before the advent of electricity.
  • Macadamisation (1815): John Loudon McAdam's technique of building durable and weather-resistant roads using crushed stone layers revolutionized transportation infrastructure across the globe.
  • Pneumatic Tire (1888): While the debate continues, Robert William Thomson, a Scottish inventor who later moved to the United States, is credited with patenting the world's first commercially successful pneumatic tire, greatly improving ride comfort and safety of bicycles and later, automobiles. He also invented the refillable fountain pen.
  • Compass (1325): While the precise origins are debated, some evidence suggests the first practical compass used for navigation emerged in Scotland around this time.
  • Bell Diving System (1931): Charles and James Armand Cousteau, inspired by Scottish diving suits, developed the Bell diving system, enabling deeper and safer underwater exploration.
  • Clydebuilt Ships: From the 19th century onwards, Scottish shipyards like those on the Clyde River built some of the world's most innovative and prestigious ships, including the RMS Queen Mary and RMS Queen Elizabeth.
  • Pneumatic Drill (1851): Robert Nasmyth designed a compressed air-powered drill, revolutionizing mining and tunneling efficiency.
  • Forth Rail Bridge (1890): This cantilever railway bridge, spanning the Firth of Forth, was a marvel of Victorian engineering at the time and remains an iconic landmark, showcasing Scotland's prowess in large-scale construction and continuing to amaze with its architectural beauty.
  • Tay Bridge (1882): Despite its tragic collapse, the Tay Bridge was a marvel of Victorian engineering, showcasing Scotland's bridge-building expertise.
  • Rubber Duckie (1970): While seemingly simple, the ubiquitous rubber duck began in Scotland as a bath toy designed by Peter Bates.
  • Bell Rock Lighthouse (1810): Robert Stevenson designed and built this iconic lighthouse on a treacherous rock in the North Sea, demonstrating innovative engineering solutions for harsh environments.
  • Electric Motor (1837): Robert Davidson became interested in the new electrical technologies of the day. From 1837, he made small electric motors on his own principles, including the first electric railway locomotive, an electrically driven lathe and printing press, and an electromagnet capable of lifting 2 tons.
  • Bessie Bell (1790): This early steam locomotive designed by William Murdoch marked a crucial step towards the practical use of steam engines.
  • Deep Sea Diving Technology: Building upon early diving suit designs, Scottish advancements in diving helmets, air supply systems, and decompression techniques facilitated deeper and safer underwater exploration.
  • Textile Machinery: With the Industrial Revolution, Scotland became a hub for textile innovation, developing machines for weaving, spinning, and finishing that influenced the global industry.
  • Robotics and Automation: Edinburgh is now a significant center for robotics research and development, with applications in healthcare, manufacturing, and agriculture.
  • Transcontinental Railroad (1869): Andrew Carnegie, a Scottish-American industrialist, played a crucial role in financing and building the first transcontinental railroad in the United States, revolutionizing American transportation and westward expansion.
  • The Panama Canal (1914): Several Scottish engineers made significant contributions to the construction of the Panama Canal.

renewable energy

  • Sustainable Technologies: Scotland is actively developing solutions for clean energy, sustainable materials, and circular economy practices.
  • Hydroelectricity: Scotland has led the way in harnessing hydropower, with dams like Cruachan Power Station generating clean energy from its mountainous landscape.
  • Marine Renewables: From wave energy converters like Pelamis to tidal turbines like MeyGen, Scotland is a leader in developing renewable energy solutions from challenging marine environments.
  • Marine Science: With its extensive coastline and diverse marine ecosystems, Scotland is a global leader in marine science research, impacting sustainable fisheries management and ocean conservation.


  • Golf: While its exact origins are disputed, golf is believed to have emerged in Scotland in the 15th century and has become a globally popular sport. The Old Course at St Andrews in Scotland is known as the home of golf.  The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, established in 1744, codified and standardized the rules of golf in the 19th century, shaping the sport globally.
  • "Father of Modern Golf": The title "Father of Modern Golf" is often attributed to Old Tom Morris. Born in 1821, Morris was a Scottish golfer and course designer who played a significant role in the development of golf as it is known today.
  • Golf: Allan Robertson was a notable figure in the history of golf, often regarded as the world's first professional golfer.
  • The First International Football Match (1872): Scotland and England played the first official international football match, igniting the global popularity of the sport.

food & drink

  • Whisky: From malting methods to cask aging, Scotland has refined its whisky production throughout history, creating globally renowned brands and flavors. Andrew Usher, a Scottish merchant who relocated to London, pioneered the blending of different whiskies to create consistent flavor profiles, shaping the commercial success of Scotch whisky globally.
  • The Modern Kiln (1758): Andrew Meikle's innovative kiln design revolutionized the malting process for brewing and distilling, playing a significant role in the Scottish whisky industry.
  • Ethical Sourcing and Sustainability: With initiatives like the Scottish Food & Drink Pledge, farm-to-table initiatives and innovative food technologies, Scotland is committed to ethical sourcing and sustainable practices within its food and drink sector.

philosophy & economics

  • Modern Economics (1776): Adam Smith, considered the father of modern economics, wrote his seminal work "The Wealth of Nations" in Scotland, shaping economic thought.
  • Modern Banking: The Royal Bank of Scotland, founded in 1727, is one of the oldest banks in the world and has played a key role in shaping financial practices.
  • Philosophy: David Hume, a Scottish philosopher living in France and England, made significant contributions to epistemology, ethics, and metaphysics, influencing philosophers worldwide.

tourist attractions

  • The Loch Ness Monster (20th Century): While its mythical status remains unproven, the Loch Ness Monster continues to spark international fascination and tourism, highlighting Scotland's rich folklore and cultural impact. It’s strange (or perhaps predictable) how Nessie always seems to surface when the holiday season comes around.
  • Whisky Tourism: Scotland's whisky industry attracts millions of visitors annually, contributing to its tourism economy and showcasing its cultural heritage.


  • The Highland Clearances (18th-19th centuries): Whilst a complex and highly controversial aspect of Scottish history, the Clearances led to the development of new sheep breeds and farming practices, impacting global agriculture. That does not make what happened right. Improvements could have been achieved in other ways.
  • Veterinary Medicine: Scotland has a rich history in veterinary medicine, with innovations like the Edinburgh School of Veterinary Medicine and advancements in animal health and welfare.


  • Celtic Music: Scotland's rich musical tradition, featuring instruments like bagpipes and harps, has influenced folk music and cultural expressions worldwide.
  • Lewis Chessmen: The chessmen were discovered in early 1831 in a sand bank at the head of Uig Bay on the west coast of the Isle of Lewis, in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. There are various local stories concerning their arrival and discovery.
  • The Kilt: This iconic garment has evolved over centuries and remains a symbol of Scottish cultural identity and fashion. Hugh Macpherson, a Scottish weaver living in Canada, is credited with popularizing the modern kilt design and tartan patterns in the 19th century.
  • The Edinburgh International Festival (1947): This renowned performing arts festival has played a key role in showcasing Scottish culture and fostering international artistic exchange.
  • Social Innovation: Numerous Scottish organizations are leading the way in social innovation, addressing challenges like poverty, inequality, and climate change through innovative solutions.
  • Creative Industries: Scotland boasts a vibrant creative scene, with innovations in gaming, animation, and film production gaining international recognition.
  • Highland Games: These traditional sporting events, showcasing strength, agility, and cultural heritage, have evolved into international competitions attracting participants and spectators worldwide. Though originating in Scotland, events like caber tossing and stone put are now held worldwide, including the United States, Canada, and Australia, thanks to Scottish diaspora communities.
  • Gaelic Language and Culture: Despite facing historical challenges, the Gaelic language and its associated cultural traditions continue to be revived and celebrated through various initiatives.
  • Robert Louis Stevenson: A Scottish author who spent significant time in England and France, wrote classic novels like "Treasure Island" and "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," shaping adventure and horror literature.
  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a Scottish writer and physician, best known for creating the legendary detective Sherlock Holmes. He wrote four novels and 56 short stories featuring the character. Besides his popular detective series, Doyle also wrote science fiction, historical novels, plays, and non-fiction. He was also a passionate advocate for justice and human rights. He was knighted in 1902 for his contributions to literature.


  • Architecture: Robert Adam, a Scottish architect working in London, pioneered the Neoclassical style in architecture, influencing building design across Europe and America.