Scotland is not a big country and does not have many people, but there are many famous and important Scots. Here are some of them.
Robert Adam (1728 – 1792) made some of the best buildings in Great Britain in the second half of the 1700s. He went to school and university in Edinburgh, and then to Rome for five years to learn about the buildings there. Then he came back to Britain. He worked on the New Town in Edinburgh and you can see buildings by him in Charlotte Square. There are many beautiful buildings by Adam in England and Scotland. People come from all over Europe and America to look at them.
David Hume (1711 – 1776) was a great thinker and writer. People still read and talk about his books today because they are so important. He also wrote a very long History of England – at that time, the most important book of this kind. Hume went to the University of Edinburgh when he was twelve years old. Later he went to France and made friends with famous French thinkers like Voltaire and Rousseau. His most important book is A Treatise of Human Nature (1739 – 1740).
The next great Scot is Robert Burns (1759 – 1976); the Scots call him Robbie or Rabbie Burns. He was born into a poor country family, the oldest of seven children, near Ayr in south-west Scotland. He began writing poems when he was still a boy. He wrote about important things – about life and love, rich people and poor people, and Scotland. His words still speak to us today and many Scots love his poems. Burns was born on 25 January, and that night is called Burns Night by the Scots. On Burns Night there are special dinners not just in Scotland but for Scottish people in other countries too. They eat haggis (a special Scottish food), drink Whisky, and say poems by Burns. And at midnight on 31 December in many English-speaking countries people sing the words of Burns when they sing “Auld Lang Syne” (the name of the song means something like “long long ago”).
James Watt (1736 – 1819) was born in Greenock near Glasgow and did not often go to school when he was a child: he stayed at home and his mother was his teacher. Watt was a quick thinker and he liked to build things with his hands. He got work building things for the teachers at the University of Glasgow. There he became interested in steam engines. He began a business with his friend Matthew Boulton, and from 1794 to 1824 they made 1,164 steam engines. These engines changed Great Britain and the world. After Watt, the world was a different place.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859 – 1930) was born in Edinburgh, went to the University of Edinburgh, and became a doctor. But he did not make much money as a doctor so he began to write stories about a detective called Sherlock Holmes. Soon Sherlock Holmes was famous and Conan Doyle became rich and famous too. He wrote many stories about Holmes and his friend Dr Watson, and also wrote stories about a man called Professor Challenger. There are also films of many Sherlock Holmes stories.
Alexander Graham Bell (1847 – 1922) made the first telephone. He began the Bell Telephone Company in 1877, and by 1885 more than 150,000 people in the USA had telephones. In 1915 he made the first telephone call across the United States from New York to San Francisco. After he died in Canada, at the age of seventy-five, all the telephones in North America were quiet for one minute to remember him.
Who is the most famous Scot in the world today? To many people it is the film star Sean Connery (1930 - ). He did a lot of different jobs before he began working in television and cinema. Then in 1962 he was James Bond in the first James Bond film, Dr No. After this he was famous everywhere. He made six more James Bond films, and made many other films after that. To many people, his best film is The Untouchables (1987). Connery does not make films now and does not live in Scotland, but he loves Scotland very much and does not want it to be part of the United Kingdom.