100 Famous Scottish People

This is a list of 100 famous Scottish people.

This includes people who were born in Scotland, but also people born outside of Scotland, but who spent considerable time living there and who adopted a Scottish identity.

Who is the greatest Scottish person?

Perhaps the most influential person from a global perspective is David Hume (philosopher) or Adam Smith (economist). From the perspective of Scottish history, Robert the Bruce or William Wallace have been very influential. In modern times, it is probably Alex Salmond.

If you want to make a suggestion about who should be on the list (or who shouldn’t), you can leave a comment below.


Robert-the-bruce1. Robert the Bruce (1274 – 1329) Born north of Girvan in Ayrshire. King of Scots (1309-1329). Leader of the revolt against English rule during wars of Scottish independence.

2. Alexander Fleming (1881-1955) Born Darvel, East Ayrshire. Biologist, pharmacologist and botanist who discovered penicillin. Later shared Nobel Prize in Medicine (1945) with Howard Florey and Ernst Boris Chain.

John_Logie_Baird3. John Logie Baird (1888 – 1946) Born Helensburgh, in Argyll and Bute. Baird was an engineer and inventor, who demonstrated the first televised moving objects and later colour tv.

philosopher 4. David Hume (1711 – 1776) – Born Edinburgh. Hume was an economist, diplomat and influential Enlightenment philosopher. He promoted a radical philosophical empiricism.

5. William Wallace (13th Century) Born Elderslie, Renfrewshire. Scottish independence leader during the war of Scottish independence. Defeated an English army at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297.

Alex_Salmond6. Alex Salmond (1954 – ) Born Linlithgow, West Lothian. Leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP). Salmond was instrumental in the growth of the SNP during the 80s, 90s and 00s, culminating in the referendum campaign of 2014.

7. Alexander Graham Bell (1847 – 1922) Born Edinburgh. Bell was an inventor of the telephone and worked on developments in understanding hearing.

Alex_Ferguson8. Alex Ferguson (1941 – ) Football manager, born Glasgow. Ferguson achieved unprecedented success with Aberdeen and Manchester United – completing a record 26 years at Manchester Utd.

poet9. Robert Burns (1759 – 1796) Born Alloway, Burns was a romantic poet, considered the National Poet of Scotland. Burns often based his poetry on traditional folk songs. He wrote ‘Auld Lang Syne‘.

10. James Watt (1736 – 1819) Born Greenock, Watt was a mechanical engineer, who improved the Newcome steam engine creating an efficient steam engine, which was essential for the industrial revolution.

11. James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879) Physicist, born Edinburgh. Maxwell made a significant contribution to understanding electro-magnetism. His research in electricity and kinetics laid the foundation for quantum physics.

writer12. Adam Smith (1723-1790) Social philosopher and pioneer of classical economics, born in Kirkcaldy. Smith is best known for his work ‘The Wealth of Nations‘ which laid down a framework for the basis of classical free-market economics. Smith is often referred to as the ‘Father of Economics.

writer13. J.K.Rowling (1965 – ) Author of the Harry Potter Series – which has become the best-selling book series of all time. Her first book was Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (1997). Rowling has also published adult fiction, such as The Casual Vacancy (2012) and The Cuckoo’s Calling (2013)

Eric_Liddell14. Eric Liddell (1902 – 1945) Represented Scotland at Rugby Union and GB athletics. Olympic gold medallist at 400m (1924). Dropped out of 100m due to religious beliefs. Life made into film ‘Chariots of Fire’

andy-murray15. Andy Murray (1987 – ) (Scotland, Great Britain, tennis) Olympic gold medallist 2012, First British winner of Wimbledon since Fred Perry.

Walter_Scott16. Sir Walter Scott (1771 – 1832) Born in Edinburgh, Scott was a historical novelist, playwright, and poet associated with the romantic era. Notable works include Ivanhoe, Rob Roy, The Lady of the Lake, and Waverley. Scott was also a member of the Highland Society and President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

writer17. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859 – 1930) Born Edinburgh, Doyle was an author of historical novels and plays. Most famous for his short stories about the detective – Sherlock Holmes, such as The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902) and Sign of Four (1890).

  1. Rev. Patrick Bell (1800 – 1869) – Invented the reaping machine a forerunner of the combine harvester.
  2. Billy Connolly (1942 – ) – comedian
  3. Nicola Sturgeon (1970 – ) Leader of SNP
  4. Sean Connery (1930 – ) – Oscar-winning actor.
  5. Thomas Carlyle (1795 – 1881) – Writer
  6. Joseph Black (1728 – 1799) – Chemist. Regarded as the Father of Quantitative Chemistry.
  7. Andrew Bonar-Law (1858 – 1923) – British Prime Minister
  8. Sir James Dewar (1842 – 1923) – Invented vacuum flask.
  9. Lord John Boyd-Orr (1880 – 1971) – Nobel Peace prize in 1947, as Director of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)
  10. Robert Stevenson (1772 – 1850) – Engineer
  11. James Boswell (1740 – 1795) – Biographer and Traveller.
  12. Robert Louis Stevenson (1850 – 1894) – Author
  13. Jackie Stewart (1939 – ) World Champion Racing Driver
  14. Robert William Thomson (1822 – 1873) – Invented the vulcanised rubber pneumatic tyre.
  15. Tony Blair (1953 – ) British Prime Minister
  16. John Boyd Dunlop (1840 – 1921) – Invented improvement to the pneumatic tyre.
  17. Sir David Brewster (1781 – 1868) – Physicist and inventor of the kaleidoscope.
  18. William Spiers Bruce (1867 – 1921) – Oceanographer and Polar Explorer.
  19. John Buchan (1875 – 1940) – Author, biographer and politician.
  20. Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman (1836 – 1908) – Prime Minister of Britain between 1906 and 1908.
  21. Andrew Carnegie (1835 – 1918) – U.S. Steel magnate and philanthropist.
  22. Gordon Brown (1951 – ) – British Prime Minister from 2007
  23. James Chalmers (1782 – 1853) – Inventor of the adhesive postage stamp
  24. James Braid (1795 – 1860) – Surgeon who developed the process of Hypnosis.
  25. James Clark (1936 – 1968) – World Racing Champion.
  26. Bill Shankly (1913 – 1981) – Football Manager
  27. George Cleghorn (1716 – 1794) – Doctor who helped discover Quinine as a cure for Malaria
  28. Sir Ralph Alexander Cochrane (1895 – 1977) – Air Chief in World War Two. Planned Dambusters raid in 1943
  29. James Keir Hardie (1856 – 1915) – Socialist, founder of Independent Labour Party, forerunner of the British Labour Party.
  30. Donald Crisp (1880 – 1974) – Oscar-Winning Actor for role in “How Green is my Valley” (1941).
  31. James Ramsay MacDonald (1866 – 1937) First British Labour Prime Minister. Led the first Labour government in 1924.
  32. Archibald Joseph Cronin (1896 – 1981) Author.
  33. Kenny Dalglish (1951 – ) Scottish Football player
  34. John Knox (1505 – 1572) – Instrumental in Protestant Reformation in Scotland.
  35. Sir Hugh Dalrymple (Lord Drummore) (1700 – 1753) – Invented better drainage system for agriculture.
  36. David Douglas (1798 – 1834)
  37. William Whitelaw (1918 – ) Conservative British Politician
  38. Air Chief Marshall Hugh Dowding (1882 – 1970) Commander in Chief of Fighter Command during Battle of Britain.
  39. Donald Caskie (1902 – 1983) – Scottish Minister who helped British servicemen flee occupied France.
  40. Sir Patrick Geddes (1854 – 1932) – Father of Town Planning
  41. Willie Carson (1942 – ) – Race horse jockey.
  42. Charles Mackintosh (1766 – 1843) – Invented Mac Raincoat
  43. James Gregory (1638 – 1675) – Inventor of the first reflecting telescope.
  44. Earl Douglas Haig (1861 – 1928) – Commander of Allied troops on Western Front in World War. Later founded the Poppy fund for ex-servicemen.
  45. William Hunter (1718 – 1783) – Pioneer in the field of Obstetrics.
  46. Elsie Inglis (1864 – 1917) – Suffragette and leading surgeon
  47. James VI (1566 – 1625) King of England and Scotland.
  48. Saint Kentigern (c. 518 – 613) – The Apostle of Cumbria and Founder of Glasgow.
  49. Kenneth Grahame (1859 – 1932) – Author. Including “The Wind in the Willows.”
  50. James Lind (1716 – 1794) – Naval doctor. Helped prevent scurvy on naval expeditions.
  51. Mary, Queen of Scots (1542 – 1587) – Monarch of Scotland.
  52. Joseph Lister (1827 – 1912) – Pioneered use of antiseptics reducing infections after operations.
  53. Sir Alexander Douglas-Home (1903 – 1995) – British Prime Minister (1963).
  54. David Livingstone (1813 – 1873) – Explorer
  55. James Ure (Midge), (1953 – ) Musician.
  56. John McAdam (1756 – 1836) – Surveyor and builder of roads.
  57. Bonnie Charlie (1720 – 1788) – The young pretender to the throne of Great Britain
  58. David Niven, (1909-1983) – Actor
  59. Sir Chris Hoy (1976 – ) – (Olympic cyclist)
  60. Sir Robert McAlpine (1847 – 1934) – Construction Firm.
  61. Norman MacCaig (1910 – 1996) – Poet
  62. Ronald Balfour Corbett (Ronnie), (1930) – Comic
  63. Hugh MacDiarmid (1892 – 1978) Poet. A founder of SNP
  64. Flora MacDonald (1722 – 1790)
  65. Dr William McEwan (1827 – 1913) – Brewer and Philanthropist.
  66. Sir John Alexander MacDonald (1815 – 1891) – First Prime Minister of Canada.
  67. Kirkpatrick Macmillan (1813 – 1878) – Inventor of the bicycle.
  68. Andrew Meikle (1719 – 1811) – Inventor of the threshing machine.
  69. Sir William Ramsay (1852 – 1916) – Chemist
  70. Muriel Spark (1918 – ) – Author
  71. Ewan McGregor, (1971) – Actor
  72. Robert Watson-Watt, (1892-1973) invented radar
  73. Donald Dewar (1937 – 2000) – Scottish politician and leader of the devolution movement of the 1990s. He was the first First Minister of Scotland (1999-2000)
  74. Robbie Coltrane, (1950 – ) – Actor
  75. Donovan, (1946 – ) – Singer
  76. Sir Thomas Lipton (1850 – 1931) – Retail Grocery trade.
  77. Annie Lennox, (1954) – Individual Singer
  78. Lulu (Marie McDonald Lawrie) (1948 – ) – Pop singer
  79. Graeme Obree (1965 – ) Cyclist – World Pursuit Champion and broke world hour record
  80. Jo Grimond, (1913 – 1993), Liberal Party leader from 1956 to 1967
  81. Sir John Sholto Douglas (8th Marquis of Queensberry) (1844 – 1900) Devised the “Queensberry Rules” for boxing in 1867.
  82. Sir William Arrol (1839 – 1913) – Engineer.
  83. Thomas Telford (1757–1834) – Civil engineer and stonemason. Telford was an innovative civil engineer, who helped build Menai suspension bridge, A5 road and numerous canals.

Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan. “Famous Scottish People”, Oxford, UK www.biographyonline.net, 25th June 2010. Last updated 1 March 2018.

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  • Researching my ancestors. My great great grand grandfather, surname “Hamilton” is from Scotland and migrated to Ontario, Canada during, I believe the early 1860’s. I also believe he was from the Lowlands of Scotland. Wife’s name unknown but she was from Ireland.
    Together they had a son named William Hamilton who was born in Barrie, Ontario, Canada during the early 1860’s. Can you tell me anything about my great great grandfather from Scotland? Thank you.

  • What about the famous Scottish comedians Stanley Baxter Ricky Fulton Chic Murray and Harry Lauder

  • What about ME ?
    Born in Glasgow Scotland on 17th December 1955.

  • Dorothy Dunnett

  • Angus Young AC/DC

    • He came to Australia when he was young and lived in my home town Sunshine, Victoria.

  • David Niven and Donald Crisp weren’t Scottish, they are only on the list because they claimed to be born in Scotland. But official birth certificates show they were both born in England.

  • I can’t believe that in this list of 100 people there are only 7 women!! Scotland has great females as well, but no mention here.

    What about: Mairi Chisholm (1896-1981) – Elsie Knocker (1884-1978) – Agnes, Countess of Dunbar (c. 1312-1369) – Elsie Inglis – (1864-1917) – Victoria Drummond (1894–1978) – Katharine Marjory (1874-1960) – Mary Somerville (1780-1872) – Marion Gilchrist (1864-1952) – Winifred, Countess of Nithsdale (1680-1749) – Isabella MacDuff, Countness of Buchan (c.1286-1313)

    And I haven’t even mentioned female Scottish actors, musicians and writers.

  • Calvin Harris should be in ahead of half the list how many chart topping bangers has Nicola sturgeon released ?

  • I visited Scotland (for the third time) this past summer, and was able to really get into the scenery and history of the country. What really blew me away, maybe even more than the spectacular scenery, is the staggering output of productivity from this one small country. Medicine, science, literature, the arts…the word “Prolific” must have been created to describe the amazing people from this ONE SMALL COUNTRY in one little area of planet earth!

    I keep asking myself: How could such an abundance of talent, creativity, and inventive and scientific discoveries come from this one little country?? Is it the fresh air?? The mist?? The sound of the bagpipes?? The spirits?? (Both kinds!)

    Does all that natural beauty inspire people to be productive??

    If anyone can give an intelligent response, I’d really appreciate it!!

    And, yes, Gerard Butler (sigh…sigh) belongs near the top of that list!!

    • I was warmed to the heart by reading through the list of the ‘100’. It is fair to say that the most heartening was to see such wonderful brains that made a lot of the world the way it has progressed; in science, mechanics, philosophy, and on and on.

      The sports folk and actors and the like. Nice to see their names there, and as a reminder a some cases. I do wonder though, about equating these wonderful people with the discoverers and those types mentioned in this first paragraph.

      This is one of my off-the-cuff notes. As usual I haven’t given it much thought, nor am I likely to.

      Still, proud of what is there to see.

      P.S. I see Andy Murray (now knighted) but no reference to his birthplace. I think it might have been Dunblane, and I also think that he may have been a pupil at the Dunblane Primary School at the time of the shooting disaster back some years now.

      P.P.S. I was at Queen Victoria School, Dunblane, from 1945 to something or other.

    • I quite agree. I’ve only been to Scotland once and long ago, but enjoyed the lack of nonsense, the energy, fairness and alertness of the people I met.

      In becoming acquainted with the history of science and technology, I was amazed at the output of such a teeny place. Seems to me that only the Ashkenazi Jews may have outclassed them in per capita output in these domains.

      Several of my closest friends have been Scottish-Americans and to a man (and one woman), delighted me with their drollness, rationality and unpretentious intelligence.

      Have I simply been lucky with the Scots I met?

      Lived for years across from CalTech in Pasadena, which or course acted as a filter, ,but still I have trouble believing it’s all just a fluke. Curious indeed.

    • In my view the reason why Scotland has a much larger pro[portion of talented people in all fields is because the education system is still based upon acquiring knowledge rather than passing exams. The “Highers” do not allow pupils to specialise early and as a result innovation and “out of the box” thinking are the norm.

  • This is SPARTAAAAAAAAA…. Gerard Butler!!! He is Scotish, was born in Glasgow!!! 🙂
    And don’t about Sir Conan Doyle!!!
    That list should be much longer…

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