Famous Scottish Intellectuals & Academics

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 1 Adam Smith

Adam Smith
Famous As: Economist
Birthdate: June 5, 1723
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland
Died: July 17, 1790

Widely considered The Father of Economics, Adam Smith was a Scottish philosopher and economist. A pioneer of political economy, Adam Smith played a major role during the Scottish Enlightenment. His book The Wealth of Nations is regarded as the first modern work of economics and a forerunner of today's academic discipline of economics.

 2 David Hume

David Hume
Famous As: Philosopher & Historian
Birthdate: April 26, 1711
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Edinburgh, Scotland
Died: August 25, 1776

Scottish Enlightenment philosopher, historian, and economist, David Hume, is considered one of the most important philosophers to write in English. His book, A Treatise of Human Nature, is counted among the most influential works in the history of philosophy. His works have influenced numerous thinkers, including German philosopher Immanuel Kant and Christian philosopher Joseph Butler.

 3 John Knox

John Knox
Famous As: Theologian
Birthdate: 1514 AD
Birthplace: Giffordgate, Haddington, Scotland
Died: November 24, 1572

John Knox was a Scottish minister, writer, and theologian. Knox, who played a major role in the Scottish Reformation, is also credited with founding the Presbyterian Church of Scotland. Considered a major contributor to the field of theology, John Knox's statue stands tall at New College in the University of Edinburgh, UK.

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 4 Thomas Carlyle

Thomas Carlyle
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: December 4, 1795
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Ecclefechan, Dumfriesshire, Scotland
Died: February 5, 1881
Initially a math teacher, Thomas Carlyle later abandoned the profession when a sudden spiritual awakening led him to writing. His parents wanted him to become a clergy, but he ended up becoming one of the greatest Victorian essayists and authors ever, known for works such as Sartor Resartus.
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 5 Walter Scott

Walter Scott
Famous As: Novelist and Poet known for his Works Ivanhoe, Rob Roy, and The Lady of the Lake
Birthdate: August 15, 1771
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Edinburgh, Scotland
Died: September 21, 1832

Walter Scott was a Scottish novelist, poet, historian, and playwright. Scott's ability as a writer and his knowledge of history made him a pioneering figure in the formation of the historical novel genre. An influential writer, many of his works remain classics of Scottish as well as English-language literature. Scott was admired by other prominent writers like Letitia Elizabeth Landon.

 6 Duns Scotus

Duns Scotus
Famous As: Philosopher, Priest
Birthdate: 1265 AD
Birthplace: Duns, Scotland
Died: December 8, 1308

Duns Scotus was a Scottish Franciscan friar, philosopher, theologian, and university professor. Widely regarded as one of the most prominent philosopher-theologians of the High Middle Ages, Scotus had a major influence on both secular and Catholic thought. In 1993, Duns Scotus was beatified by the Catholic Church. His life and work inspired a 2012 Italian film titled Blessed Duns Scotus.

 7 Neil Oliver

Neil Oliver
Famous As: TV Presenter
Birthdate: February 21, 1967
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Renfrewshire, Scotland, UK

Neil Oliver is a Scottish author and television presenter best known for presenting many documentary series on history and archaeology, such as Coast, Vikings, and A History of Scotland. Oliver is also known for his association with the popular conservation organization National Trust for Scotland, where he served as the president from 2017 to 2020.

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 8 James Murray

James Murray
Famous As: Lexicographer
Birthdate: February 7, 1837
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Denholm, Scotland
Died: July 26, 1915

James Murray was a Scottish philologist and lexicographer. He is best remembered as the main editor of the famous Oxford English Dictionary from 1879 until his demise in 1915. Murray's contribution to the dictionary and his collaboration with lexicographical researcher William Chester Minor inspired the 2019 film The Professor and the Madman, where the former was portrayed by Mel Gibson.

 9 Mary Somerville

Mary Somerville
Famous As: Mathematician, Linguist, Translator, Astronomer, Scientist
Birthdate: December 26, 1780
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Jedburgh
Died: November 28, 1872

One of the two pioneering female honorary members of the Royal Astronomical Society, Mary Somerville was a 19th-century polymath and science writer. Though she specialized in math and astronomy, she was also well-versed in botany and geology. The Connection of the Physical Sciences remains her most notable work.

 10 John Buchan

John Buchan
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: August 26, 1875
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Perth, Scotland
Died: February 11, 1940

Apart from being a Unionist politician who had also been the Governor General of Canada, John Buchan was also a notable writer of adventure fiction, thrillers, and historical novels. Best known for his novel The Thirty-Nine Steps, he also penned a 24-volume history of World War I.

 11 Angus Deaton

Angus Deaton
Famous As: Economist
Birthdate: October 19, 1945
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Edinburgh, Scotland

British-American economist and Nobel laureate Angus Deaton revolutionized applied economics with his work on consumption, savings, poverty, and development. Apart from teaching at Princeton, he has penned multiple award-winning papers and given rise to concepts such as the Deaton Paradox. He was also the first to receive the Frisch Medal.

 12 John Witherspoon

John Witherspoon
Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: February 5, 1723
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Gifford, Scotland
Died: November 15, 1794

John Witherspoon was a Scottish American slaveholder, Presbyterian minister, and Founding Father of the United States. A signatory to the Declaration of Independence, Witherspoon also signed the Articles of Confederation. He also played a crucial role in shaping public policy in the United States of America.

 13 John Law

John Law
Famous As: economist, banker, statistician
Birthdate: April 21, 1671
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Edinburgh
Died: March 21, 1729

John Law was a Scottish economist best remembered for his work as Controller General of Finances under the Regent of the Kingdom of France, Philippe II, Duke of Orléans. Law is credited with founding Banque Générale Privée, the first financial organization to pioneer the use of paper money. Law is also credited with originating ideas like the real bills doctrine.

 14 Sir Mortimer Wheeler

Sir Mortimer Wheeler
Famous As: Archaeologist
Birthdate: September 10, 1890
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Glasgow, Scotland
Died: July 22, 1976

Sir Mortimer Wheeler was a British archaeologist who served as the director of the London Museum as well as the National Museum of Wales during his illustrious career. He is credited with developing the Wheeler–Kenyon method of archaeological excavation. Wheeler is also remembered for his association with the Archaeological Survey of India where he served as Director-General.

 15 Abdalqadir as-Sufi

Abdalqadir as-Sufi
Famous As: theologian, philosopher, actor
Birthdate: 1930 AD
Birthplace: Ayr

Abdalqadir as-Sufi was a Scottish playwright and actor who dedicated his life to popularize Islam after converting to the religion in 1967. He helped establish the Jumu'a Mosque of Cape Town, the Great Mosque of Granada, and the Ihsan Mosque in England. Abdalqadir as-Sufi is also credited with founding the Murabitun World Movement, which aims at restoring several Islam practices.

 16 Patrick Geddes

Patrick Geddes
Famous As: Biologist
Birthdate: October 2, 1854
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Ballater, Aberdeenshire, Scotland
Died: April 17, 1932

Apart from being a sociologist and biologist, Patrick Geddes was known for his impeccable sense of town planning. While he initially taught botany in Dundee, he later turned to sociology and conducted studies in India, Mexico, and other countries. He was eventually knighted for his achievements.

 17 Allan Octavian Hume

Allan Octavian Hume
Famous As: Founder of Indian National Congress
Birthdate: June 4, 1829
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Saint Mary Cray, Orpington, United Kingdom
Died: July 31, 1912

British civil servant A. O. Hume is remembered as the Father of the Indian National Congress, having co-founded the party. Apart from being an administrator, he was also an ornithologist and had written List of Birds in India. His vocal criticism of the British made his bosses distrust him.

 18 James Mill

James Mill
Famous As: Historian
Birthdate: April 6, 1773
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Angus, Scotland
Died: June 23, 1836

James Mill was a Scottish economist, historian, philosopher, and political theorist. Mill is credited with co-founding the Ricardian school of economics. He is also credited with writing The History of British India, which classifies Indian history into three parts: British, Muslim, and Hindu. The classification has played an influential role in the field of Indian historical studies.

 19 Thomas Reid

Thomas Reid
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: May 7, 1710
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Strachan, Scotland, Great Britain
Died: October 7, 1796

Thomas Reid was a Scottish philosopher best remembered for founding the Scottish School of Common Sense. Reid, who played an important part in the Scottish Enlightenment, advocated common sense realism as opposed to his contemporary David Hume who advocated metaphysical naturalism. Thomas Reid is also credited with co-founding the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1783.

 20 Robert Morrison MacIver

Robert Morrison MacIver
Famous As: Sociologist
Birthdate: April 17, 1882
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Stornoway, Scotland
Died: June 15, 1970

 21 A.S. Neill

A.S. Neill
Famous As: Educator
Birthdate: October 17, 1883
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Forfar, Scotland
Died: September 23, 1973

A. S. Neill was a Scottish author and educator best remembered for founding Summerhill School, which was established in 1921. The independent boarding school, which serves education in a democratic fashion, is one of the finest examples of both alternative and democratic education. A. S. Neill is widely regarded as one of the most influential educationists of all time.

 22 James Wilson

James Wilson
Famous As: Businessman
Birthdate: June 3, 1805
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Hawick, Roxburghshire, Scotland
Died: August 11, 1860

Born to a hat manufacturer, James Wilson initially wished to study law but later joined his father’s business. Over the years, he established what is now the Standard Chartered Bank. Sent to Kolkata by Queen Victoria to introduce tax reforms, he introduced paper currency in the country, but died of dysentery.

 23 Harry The Minstrel

Harry The Minstrel
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: 1440 AD
Birthplace: Scotland, United Kingdom
Died: 1492 AD

Harry The Minstrel, or Blind Harry, was a 15th-century Scottish poet, best known for his iconic poem The Wallace. He finds mention in a lot of literary works, such as The Lament for the Makaris by William Dunbar. Blind since birth, he mostly went around collecting legends about Scottish knight Sir William Wallace.

 24 Mountstuart Elphinstone

Mountstuart Elphinstone
Famous As: Statesman
Birthdate: October 6, 1779
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Dumbarton, Dumbartonshire, Scotland
Died: November 20, 1859

 25 W. D. Ross

W. D. Ross
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: April 15, 1877
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Thurso, Scotland
Died: May 5, 1971

W. D. Ross was a Scottish philosopher best remembered for his work in ethics. He is credited with developing a deontological form of intuitionism in response to his contemporary George Edward Moore's consequentialist form of intuitionist ethics. Ross is also credited with editing and translating several works of the popular Greek philosopher and polymath Aristotle.

 26 Michael Scot

Michael Scot
Famous As: Scholar
Birthdate: 1175 AD
Birthplace: Scotland
Died: 1232 AD

Michael Scot was a Scottish scholar and mathematician. Widely regarded as the greatest intellectual of the Middle Ages, Scot served as a court astrologer and science adviser to Emperor Frederick II. Michael Scot's life and work have inspired several literary works, including the 2019 novel A Matter of Interpretation by Elizabeth Mac Donald.

 27 Alexander Bain - Philosopher

Alexander Bain - Philosopher
Famous As: Scottish philosopher
Birthdate: June 11, 1818
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Aberdeen
Died: September 18, 1903

Alexander Bain was a Scottish philosopher. He was a prominent educationalist in the British school of empiricism. A respected figure in the fields of psychology, logic, linguistics, moral philosophy, and education reform, he founded Mind, the first-ever journal of psychology and analytical philosophy. He had an illustrious academic career at the University of Aberdeen. 

 28 Richard Haldane, 1st Viscount Haldane

Richard Haldane, 1st Viscount Haldane
Famous As: Statesman
Birthdate: July 30, 1856
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Edinburgh, Scotland
Died: August 19, 1928

Richard Haldane, 1st Viscount Haldane was a British philosopher, lawyer, and politician. Between 1905 and 1912, he served as the Secretary of State for War and was instrumental in implementing a series of reforms of the British Army called The Haldane Reforms. He also served as the Lord Chancellor twice during his illustrious career. Richard was also an influential writer.

 29 Alexander Melville Bell

Alexander Melville Bell
Famous As: Philologist
Birthdate: March 1, 1819
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Edinburgh, Scotland
Died: August 7, 1905

 30 Thomas Gordon

Thomas Gordon
Famous As: psychologist
Birthdate: March 11, 1918
Sun Sign: Pisces
Died: August 26, 2002

 31 Thomas Chalmers

Thomas Chalmers
Famous As: Vice-President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh From 1835 to 1842
Birthdate: March 17, 1780
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Anstruther, Fife, Scotland
Died: May 31, 1847

Scottish Presbyterian minister and political economist Thomas Chalmers has been immortalized by the town of Port Chalmers in New Zealand, named after him. An ordained minister, he was initially a math lecturer. He later became the Free Church of Scotland’s first moderator. He tried applying Christian ethics to economic problems.

 32 Eric Linklater

Eric Linklater
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: March 8, 1899
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Penarth, Wales
Died: November 7, 1974

Welsh-born Scottish author Eric Linklater is best remembered for his award-winning children’s book The Wind on the Moon. Initially a student of medicine, he later switched to English literature. He  had also been part pf the Scottish military and later also became a military historian.

 33 Dugald Stewart

Dugald Stewart
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: November 22, 1753
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Edinburgh,Scotland
Died: June 11, 1828

Dugald Stewart was a Scottish mathematician and philosopher best remembered for his efforts to popularize the works of Adam Smith and Francis Hutcheson. Considered one of the most prominent personalities of the Scottish Enlightenment, Stewart played a major role in explaining the Scottish Common Sense Realism. Among his students were Sir Walter Scott, Sir Archibald Alison, and Sir James Mackintosh. 

 34 Ivan T. Sanderson

Ivan T. Sanderson
Famous As: Biologist, Writer
Birthdate: January 30, 1911
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Edinburgh, Scotland
Died: February 19, 1973

 35 Edward Irving

Edward Irving
Famous As: Scottish minister
Birthdate: August 4, 1792
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Annan, Scotland
Died: December 7, 1834

 36 Sir William Hamilton, 9th Baronet

Sir William Hamilton, 9th Baronet
Famous As: Metaphysician
Birthdate: March 8, 1788
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Glasgow, Scotland
Died: May 6, 1856

Sir William Hamilton, 9th Baronet, was a Scottish metaphysician and educator best remembered for his work in the field of logic. Hamilton, who made attempts to combine the views held by German philosopher Immanuel Kant with the Scottish philosophy of common sense, is credited with popularizing the works of Kant in the United Kingdom.

 37 William Robertson

William Robertson
Famous As: Historian
Birthdate: September 19, 1721
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Borthwick, Scotland
Died: June 11, 1793

 38 Robert Barclay

Robert Barclay
Famous As: Former Scottish Quaker, one of the most eminent writers belonging to the Religious Society of Friends
Birthdate: December 23, 1648
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Moray, United Kingdom
Died: October 3, 1690

Scottish Quaker leader Robert Barclay is best remembered for his written work An Apology for the True Christian Divinity. His close friendship with James II, Duke of York, helped him secure the land of East Jersey for himself and his several Quaker friends who had been facing persecution back then.

 39 James Burnett, Lord Monboddo

James Burnett, Lord Monboddo
Famous As: Judge
Birthdate: October 25, 1714
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Monboddo, Scotland
Died: May 26, 1799

James Burnett, Lord Monboddo was a Scottish philosopher, judge, deist, and scholar of linguistic evolution. Best remembered for contributing to the development of the concepts of biological evolution, James Burnett is often credited with theorizing the idea of natural selection. His theories were read and acknowledged by Erasmus Darwin, whose works were in turn read by his grandson Charles Darwin.

 40 William Robertson Smith

William Robertson Smith
Famous As: Scholar
Birthdate: November 8, 1846
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Aberdeenshire, Scotland
Died: March 31, 1894

 41 John Henry Mackay

John Henry Mackay
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: February 6, 1864
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Greenock, Scotland
Died: May 16, 1933

John Henry Mackay was a writer, thinker, and egoist anarchist. Mackay, who spent most of his life in Germany, is best remembered for his work Die Anarchisten which was published in 1891. He is also remembered for his friendship with American anarchist Benjamin Tucker, who published his works in Liberty magazine in the United States of America.

 42 Nigel Tranter

Nigel Tranter
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: November 23, 1909
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Glasgow, Scotland
Died: January 9, 2000

 43 James Croll

James Croll
Famous As: Geographer, Geologist
Birthdate: January 2, 1821
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Little Whitefield, Perthshire, Scotland
Died: December 15, 1890

 44 James Steuart

James Steuart
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: October 21, 1712
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Edinburgh, Scotland
Died: November 26, 1780

Credited with writing the first methodically written text on economics in English, James Steuart belonged to a noble family. His renowned work, An Inquiry into the Principles of Political Economy, was the first in English and the first by a Scottish economist to have “political economy” as part of its title.

 45 James Frederick Ferrier

James Frederick Ferrier
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: June 16, 1808
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Edinburgh, Scotland
Died: June 11, 1864

James Frederick Ferrier was a Scottish metaphysical philosopher, writer, and professor. He is best remembered for authoring a series of articles titled An Introduction to the Philosophy of Consciousness, which were published in Blackwood's Magazine. As an educator, James Frederick Ferrier taught at several prestigious institutions like Edinburgh University and the University of St Andrews.

 46 Hugh Blair

Hugh Blair
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: April 7, 1718
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Edinburgh, Scotland
Died: December 27, 1800

Hugh Blair was a Scottish writer, rhetorician, and minister of religion. As a minister of religion, Blair had a major impact in both the secular and the spiritual realms. He also played an important role in the Scottish Enlightenment and is credited with co-founding the Royal Society of Edinburgh. From 1789 to 1796, he served as the academy's Literary President.

 47 Henry Home, Lord Kames

Henry Home, Lord Kames
Famous As: Advocate
Birthdate: 1696 AD
Birthplace: Kames, Scotland
Died: December 27, 1782

Henry Home, Lord Kames was a Scottish philosopher, writer, agricultural improver, advocate, and judge. One of the most influential personalities in the Scottish Enlightenment, Home took an active part in an intellectual society of the 18th-century known as the Select Society. A founding member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Home acted as a patron to personalities like David Hume.

 48 Hector Boece

Hector Boece
Famous As: Scottish philosopher
Birthdate: 1465 AD
Birthplace: Dundee, Scotland
Died: 1536 AD

Hector Boece was a Scottish historian and philosopher best remembered for his role as the first principal of King's College, a precursor of the University of Aberdeen, where he often delivered lectures on divinity and on medicine. He is also remembered for his books, History of the Scottish People and Lives of the Bishops of Murthlack and Aberdeen. 

 49 John Richardson

John Richardson
Famous As: Surgeon and Explorer
Birthdate: November 5, 1787
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Dumfries, Scotland
Died: June 5, 1865

Apart from being a naval surgeon, John Richardson also made a named for himself as an explorer of the Canadian Arctic coast. He was also a talented author of natural history. His accurate surveys eventually got him knighted. Various species of reptiles and mammals have been named in his honor.

 50 Richard of Saint-Victor

Richard of Saint-Victor
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: 1110 AD
Birthplace: Scotland, England
Died: March 16, 1173

Richard of Saint-Victor was a Medieval Scottish theologian and philosopher. One of the most influential and prominent religious thinkers of his generation, Richard served as a prior of the Augustinian Abbey of Saint-Victor from 1162 to 1173. A prolific writer, Richard of Saint-Victor published several important books, including The Book of the Twelve Patriarchs.