Scotland

John Arbuthnot and the Laws of Chance

John Arbuthnot and the Laws of Chance

On April 29, 1667, Scottish physician, satirist and polymath John Arbuthnot was baptized. He is best remembered for his contributions to mathematics, his membership in the Scriblerus Club (where he inspired both Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels as well as Alexander Pope), and for inventing the figure of John Bull. He published Of the Laws of Chance (1692), the first work on probability published in English, being his translation of a work by…
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Joseph Black and the Discovery of Carbon Dioxide

Joseph Black and the Discovery of Carbon Dioxide

On April 16, 1742, Scottish physician and chemist Joseph Black was born. He is best known for his discoveries of latent heat, specific heat, and carbon dioxide. “As the ostensible effect of the heat … consists not in warming the surrounding bodies but in rendering the ice fluid, so, in the case of boiling, the heat absorbed does not warm surrounding bodies but converts the water into vapor. In both cases, considered…
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Sir James Young Simpson and the Chloroform

Sir James Young Simpson and the Chloroform

Sir James Young Simpson, 1st Baronet (1811–1870) On November 12, 1847, Scottish obstetrician and important figure in the history of medicine Sir James Young Simpson published his self trial experiments with the new anesthetic chloroform. “All pain is per se and especially in excess, destructive and ultimately fatal in its nature and effects.” (James Young Simpson) Simpson was born in Bathgate near Edinburg, West Lothian, Scotland, as the seventh son and eighth child of an impecunious baker. Simpson attended the University of Edinburgh…
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Robert Morison and the Classification of Plants

Robert Morison and the Classification of Plants

Robert Morison (1620–1683) On November 10, 1683, Scottish botanist and taxonomist Robert Morison passed away. A forerunner of naturalist John Ray, he elucidated and developed the first systematic classification of plants. Born in 1620 in Aberdeen, Scotland, as son of John Morison and his wife Anna Gray, Robert Morison was an outstanding scholar who gained his Master of Arts degree and Ph.D. from the University of Aberdeen at the age of eighteen. He devoted himself at first to mathematics, and studied…
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James Lind and a Cure for Scurvy

James Lind and a Cure for Scurvy

James Lind (1714-1794) On October 4, 1714, Scottish physician James Lind was born. He was a pioneer of naval hygiene in the Royal Navy. By conducting the first ever clinical trial, he developed the theory that citrus fruits cured scurvy. His work advanced the practice of preventive medicine and improved nutrition. James Lind was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, to Margaret (Smelum) and James Lind, a prosperous merchant whose wife had medical connections. He…
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Sir Patrick Manson – The Father of Tropical Medicine

Sir Patrick Manson – The Father of Tropical Medicine

Manson teaching at the Albert Dock Seamen‘s Hospital 1901 On October 3, 1844, Scottish physician Sir Patrick Manson was born. He made important discoveries in parasitology, and was the founder of the field of tropical medicine. He was the first to identify an insect for the spread of infection. Patrick Manson began studying medicine at the University of Aberdeen in 1860 and continued his career at a psychiatric institute after graduating. However,…
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William Playfair and the Beginnings of Infographics

William Playfair and the Beginnings of Infographics

Playfair’s trade-balance time-series chart, from The Commercial and Political Atlas and Statistical Breviary, 1786 On September 22, 1759, Scottish engineer and political economist William Playfair was born. He is generally considered the founder of graphical methods of statistics. William Playfair invented four types of diagrams: line graph, bar chart, pie chart, and circle graph. Playfair was born in 1759 in Scotland during the Enlightenment, a Golden Age in the arts, sciences, industry…
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William Murdock ‘enlights’ the 19th Century

William Murdock ‘enlights’ the 19th Century

On August 21, 1754, Scottish engineer and inventor William Murdock was born. He was the first to make extensive use of coal gas for illumination and a pioneer in the development of steam power. William Murdock (sometimes also referred to as Murdoch) was born as the third of seven children of the mill tenant and former infantryman John Murdoch in the community of Cumnoch. At the age of ten, he moved to Auchinleck School, where…
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John Logie Baird and the Invention of Television

John Logie Baird and the Invention of Television

On August 14, 1888, Scottish scientist and engineer John Logie Baird was born. He is considered the inventor of the world’s first television, the first publicly demonstrated colour television system, and the first purely electronic colour television picture tube. Born in Helensburgh, Argyll and Bute (then Dunbartonshire) on the west coast of Scotland, Baird was the youngest of four children of the Reverend John Baird, the Church of Scotland’s minister for the local St Bride’s…
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John Napier and the Discovery of Logarithms

John Napier and the Discovery of Logarithms

On April 4, 1617, Scottish mathematician, physicist, astronomer and astrologer John Napier of Merchiston, the 8th Laird of Merchistoun passed away. John Napier is best known as the discoverer of logarithms. He was also the inventor of the so-called “Napier’s bones“, a kind of abacus for calculation of products and quotients of numbers. Napier also made common the use of the decimal point in arithmetic and mathematics. “A Logarithmic Table is a…
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