Famous Scottish Writers

Having a history that dates back to the time as early as in sixth century, Scottish literature are works by Scottish writers who penned their works in English, Scottish, Gaelic, Scots, Brythonic, French, Latin, Norn or other languages. Historians, classicists, biographers, novelists, poets, critics, playwrights, humourists, essayists, annalist, diarists – Scottish writers have been omnipresent. They have made their worth count in all forms of literary pieces and helped Scotland gain a prominent place in the pantheon of world literature. From heroic epics to poignant tragedies, heart-melting poetry to rib-tickling humor, legendary history to unputdownable short stories, Scottish writers have been recognized in the world over. And while talking about Scottish writers one just cannot fathom the contribution by John Barbour and Robert Burns. While the former was the first major literary figure of Scotland, the latter was a pioneer of the Romantic Movement and was awarded with the title of national poet. And any discussion about Scottish writers and literature cannot be complete without the mention of Sir Walter Scott, a novelist and poet whose pursuits in literature created some of the finest ever works known to mankind! This probably best explains the fact that the world’s largest monument to an author is dedicated to him. With this write-up, follow the life and works of famous Scottish writers.

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
7
Famous As: British Writer Who Created the Character of Sherlock Holmes
Birthdate: May 22, 1859
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Scotland
Died: July 7, 1930
Physician-turned-author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is remembered for creating the iconic character Sherlock Holmes. He wrote four novels and 56 short stories on Holmes’s detective adventures and also created the characters Professor Challenger and Brigadier Gerard. A sports lover, he had dabbled in cricket, football, and bodybuilding, too.

 2 Robert Louis Stevenson

Robert Louis Stevenson
10
Famous As: Author of Famous Novels: 'Treasure Island' and 'Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde'
Birthdate: November 13, 1850
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Edinburgh, Scotland
Died: December 3, 1894

Robert Louis Stevenson was a Scottish travel writer, poet, and novelist. A popular writer in his lifetime, Stevenson went about traveling widely and writing prolifically even as he suffered from bronchial trouble; his will power and love for writing won the hearts of many other writers. In 2018, he was ranked as the world's 26th-most-translated author.

 3 David Hume

David Hume
5
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.

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 4 Robert Burns

Robert Burns
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Famous As: Poet and Lyricist widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland and is celebrated worldwide.
Birthdate: January 25, 1759
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Ayrshire, Scotland
Died: July 21, 1796
Scottish poet Robert Burns, also known as the National Bard and the Bard of Ayrshire, is considered a pioneer of the Romantic movement in English literature. He often drew inspiration from Scottish folk songs. Some of his most notable works include the poems Auld Lang Syne and Scots Wha Hae.
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 5 David McCallum

David McCallum
6
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: September 19, 1933
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Glasgow, Scotland

David McCallum is a Scottish musician and actor who gained recognition for portraying Illya Kuryakin in the popular spy fiction TV series The Man from U.N.C.L.E. He gained international recognition for playing Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard in the action police procedural TV series NCIS. David McCallum has also contributed as a writer, publishing a novel titled Once a Crooked Man.

 6 Sir James Matthew Barrie

Sir James Matthew Barrie
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: May 9, 1860
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Kirriemuir, Angus, Scotland
Died: June 19, 1937

Sir James Matthew Barrie was a Scottish playwright and novelist. He is credited and remembered for creating the famous fictional character, Peter Pan. In the 1922 New Year Honours, Barrie was made a member of the Order of Merit. Before his death, he gifted the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children with the rights of his Peter Pan works.

 7 Donovan

Donovan
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Famous As: Singer-songwriter, Guitarist, Composer, Autobiographer, Writer, Poet, Record producer, Film score composer
Birthdate: May 10, 1946
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Glasgow, Scotland

Donovan is a Scottish guitarist, singer, and songwriter. He is best known for developing and popularizing a distinctive and eclectic style that blended many genres, such as folk, jazz, pop, calypso, and psychedelic rock. Donovan was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame, in 2012 and 2014, respectively.

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 8 Walter Scott

Walter Scott
5
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.

 9 Grant Morrison

Grant Morrison
4
Famous As: Comics writer, Writer, Science fiction writer
Birthdate: January 31, 1960
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Glasgow

 10 Graham Hancock

Graham Hancock
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: August 2, 1950
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Edinburgh, Scotland

Scottish author Graham Hancock spent his initial years in India, where his father was a surgeon. He later moved back to the UK and worked as a journalist for publications such as The Guardian and The Times. He is known to propagate pseudo-scientific theories through his books such as Underworld and Supernatural.

 11 Derek William Dick

Derek William Dick
5
Famous As: Singer-songwriter, Actor, Singer, Composer, Poet
Birthdate: April 25, 1958
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Dalkeith, Midlothian, Scotland

Better known by his pseudonym, Fish, Scottish rock singer Derek William Dick first gained fame as part of the British band Marillion. Known for hits such as Kayleigh, he later also had a successful solo career. He once revealed how he almost died twice, from skin-infection-induced blood poisoning.

 12 Irvine Welsh

Irvine Welsh
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: September 27, 1958
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Leith, Edinburgh, Scotland

Best known for his cult novel Trainspotting, which depicted the lives of Scottish heroin addicts and was made into a film by Danny Boyle, Scottish author Irvine Welsh has also written in the Edinburgh Scots dialect. He also boasts of an MBA degree and has worked in his country’s housing department.

 13 James Boswell

James Boswell
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Famous As: Biographer
Birthdate: October 18, 1740
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Edinburgh, Scotland
Died: May 19, 1795

Best known for his biography of his friend Samuel Johnson, 18th-century biographer and diarist James Boswell was also a qualified lawyer. Know for his reckless lifestyle and his trysts with prostitutes, he had contracted gonorrhea and had also fathered many children, including two illegitimate ones.

 14 Alistair Maclean

Alistair Maclean
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: April 21, 1922
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Shettleston, Glasgow, Scotland
Died: February 2, 1987

Alistair Maclean was a Scottish novelist best remembered for writing popular adventure stories. Having sold more than 150 million copies, Alistair Maclean is widely regarded as one of the best-selling fiction authors. Many of his works, including Where Eagles Dare, Ice Station Zebra, and The Guns of Navarone, have been made into popular films.

 15 R. D. Laing

R. D. Laing
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Famous As: Psychiatrist
Birthdate: October 7, 1927
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Govanhill
Died: August 23, 1989

Psychiatrist R. D. Laing was known for his different perspective on mental illnesses, particularly psychosis. Known as anti-psychiatry, his theory of resolving mental ailments opposed the age-old shock therapy. His written works include The Divided Self. He was also a talented poet and had fathered 10 children by four women.

 16 Iain Banks

Iain Banks
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Famous As: Author
Birthdate: February 16, 1954
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Dunfermline, Scotland
Died: June 9, 2013

While he began writing at age 11, Scottish author Iain Banks first gained fame with his first novel, The Wasp Factory. Known for his sci-fi tales, he has also been featured on various BBC radio and TV shows. He has also been associated with theater and is quite vocal about political issues.

 17 A. J. Cronin

A. J. Cronin
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Famous As: Physician
Birthdate: July 19, 1896
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Cardross, Scotland
Died: January 6, 1981
A. J. Cronin was a Scottish novelist and physician best remembered for his 1937 novel The Citadel. The novel, which received the National Book Award in 1937, helped inspire the creation of the National Health Service. Many of his books, including The Citadel, have been adapted to films. His novella Country Doctor inspired a TV series titled Dr. Finlay's Casebook.

 18 John Buchan

John Buchan
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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.

 19 Peter May

Peter May
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Famous As: journalist, writer
Birthdate: December 20, 1951
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Glasgow

Glasgow-born Scottish author Peter May first gained fame for his novel The Reporter, which was later made into the TV series The Standard. He is also known for his China Thrillers and The Enzo Files series. He is now based in France and is married to Scottish playwright Janice Hally.

 20 Ali Smith

Ali Smith
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: August 24, 1962
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Inverness, Scotland

Born to working-class parents in Scotland, Ali Smith grew up to earn a PhD from the University of Cambridge. While teaching at the University of Strathclyde, she developed chronic fatigue and took a break to write. Known for books such as Autumn, she often collaborates with her partner Sarah Wood.

 21 Josephine Tey

Josephine Tey
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Famous As: Playwright, Novelist
Birthdate: July 25, 1896
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Inverness, Scotland
Died: February 13, 1952

Elizabeth Mackintosh, better known by her pseudonym, Josephine Tey, was a physical education teacher before becoming a full-time author. She first tasted success with The Man in the Queue, a detective novel written as Gordon Daviot. Her work A Shilling for Candles was made into a film by Alfred Hitchcock.

 22 Muriel Spark

Muriel Spark
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: February 1, 1918
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Edinburgh, Scotland
Died: April 13, 2006

Known for her novels such as Memento Mori and The Driver’s Seat, Scottish author Muriel Spark was also one of the rare female editors of her time when she was associated with the Poetry Review. Though born to a Jewish father, she later converted to Catholicism.

 23 Andrew Lang

Andrew Lang
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Famous As: Poet, Novelist, Literary Critic
Birthdate: March 31, 1844
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Selkirk
Died: July 20, 1912

Best known for his collections of folklore, fairy tales, and legends, Scottish author and Merton College fellow Andrew Lang was also an avid historian and anthropologist who coined the term psychical research. His The World of Homer and his translations of Homer’s works remain invaluable to Homerian students.

 24 Tobias Smollett

Tobias Smollett
3
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: March 19, 1721
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Dalquhurn (now part of Renton, Scotland Renton), Scotland
Died: September 17, 1771

Best known for his picaresque novels such as The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, Scottish novelist Tobias Smollett was born into a family of lawyers and soldiers and initially attended medical training. Some believe he quit university without a degree, while it is also said he had served as a navy surgeon.

 25 Rory Bremner

Rory Bremner
3
Famous As: Impressionist
Birthdate: April 6, 1961
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom

 26 Samuel Smiles

Samuel Smiles
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: December 23, 1812
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Haddington, East Lothian, Scotland
Died: April 16, 1904

Though a qualified doctor, Samuel Smiles later never practiced and switched to journalism instead, working for Leeds Times. His best-known work remains Self-Help, a motivational self-improvement guide for the youth, which denounced materialism and advocated thrift. His other significant work was the 5-volume Lives of the Engineers.

 27 Ivor Cutler

Ivor Cutler
3
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: January 15, 1923
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Glasgow, Scotland
Died: March 3, 2006
Known for his frequent appearances on BBC radio programs and his baritone voice, singer Ivor Cutler had once been a RAF navigator. While he initially studied painting and sculpting, he later took to poetry and songwriting. He had also penned children’s books. Called an eccentric, he mostly traveled by bicycle.

 28 James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose

James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose
3
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: October 25, 1612
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Edinburgh, Scotland
Died: May 21, 1650

Known as The Great Montrose, James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose was not just a Scottish nobleman and military leader but also a talented poet. He won many battles for Charles I but was defeated in the Battle of Carbisdale, following which he was hanged to death in the Edinburgh marketplace.

 29 Alasdair Gray

Alasdair Gray
5
Famous As: Former Writer best known for his surreal atmospheric novel Lanark (1981)
Birthdate: December 28, 1934
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Glasgow, Scotland
Died: December 29, 2019

Alasdair Gray was a Scottish artist and writer whose works have inspired several other prominent writers like Irvine Welsh, Alan Warner, Janice Galloway, Chris Kelso, and A. L. Kennedy. His first novel Lanark, which was published in 1981, is viewed as a watershed in the history of Scottish fiction. He also painted murals, including one at the Hillhead subway station.

 30 Compton Mackenzie

Compton Mackenzie
3
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: January 17, 1883
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: West Hartlepool, County Durham, England
Died: November 30, 1972

Though born into a famous family of theater actors and managers, Compton Mackenzie turned to writing in his 20s. Known for works such as Greek Memories, he also gained fame as a Scottish nationalist and played a major role in the formation of the Scottish National Party.

 31 Denise Mina

Denise Mina
3
Famous As: Crime writer
Birthdate: August 21, 1966
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: East Kilbride, Scotland

While she initially did a number of odd jobs, including working as a bar maid, Denise Mina later entered law school, eventually working on mental illness and also teaching criminology. She misused her PhD grant and penned an award-winning novel, Garnethill, instead. She then became a master of crime novels.

 32 Hugh MacDiarmid

Hugh MacDiarmid
3
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: August 11, 1892
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Langholm, Scotland
Died: September 9, 1978

Christopher Murray Grieve, better known by his pseudonym, Hugh MacDiarmid, was one of the pillars of the 20th-century Scottish literary renaissance. Initially a journalist, he later focused on writing poetry, but rejected English and wrote in "synthetic Scots" instead. His best-known work remains A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle.

 33 Joanna Baillie

Joanna Baillie
3
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: September 11, 1762
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Hamilton, Scotland
Died: February 23, 1851

Joanna Baillie was a Scottish dramatist and poet who recieved critical acclaim for her works, such as Fugitive Verses and Plays on the Passions. One of her most popular works DeMonfort helped inspire Byron's drama, Manford. Baillie was also known for her philanthropic efforts; she donated half her earnings to charity and took an active part in several philanthropic activities.

 34 Thomas Campbell

Thomas Campbell
3
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: July 27, 1777
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Glasgow, Scotland
Died: June 15, 1844

Scottish poet Thomas Campbell is best known for his emotional war poems and songs, such as Ye Mariners of England. He was also one of the men behind the formation of University College London. Though he initially intended to study law, he later ended up writing some of the best patriotic lyrics.

 35 Gavin Esler

Gavin Esler
0
Famous As: Journalist
Birthdate: February 27, 1953
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Glasgow, Scotland

Award-winning Scottish journalist and broadcaster Gavin Esler is best known for presenting BBC programs such as Dateline London, The Film Review, and Hardtalk. He has also penned novels such as The Blood Brother and non-fiction works such as Brexit Without the Bullshit. He also contested as election as a Change UK candidate.

 36 A.S. Neill

A.S. Neill
2
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.

 37 Harry The Minstrel

Harry The Minstrel
2
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.

 38 William Cullen

William Cullen
2
Famous As: Physician, Chemist, Farmer, Academic, University teacher, Writer, Psychiatrist
Birthdate: April 15, 1710
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Hamilton
Died: February 5, 1790

Apart from being a prominent Scottish physician, William Cullen was also a main pillar of the Scottish Enlightenment. Not only did he treat luminaries such as philosopher David Hume, but he also treated the poor free of cost. A University of Edinburgh professor of medicine, he was also a Royal Society Fellow.

 39 Naomi Mitchison

Naomi Mitchison
2
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: November 1, 1897
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Edinburgh, Scotland
Died: January 11, 1999

Known for authoring books such as Memoirs of a Spacewoman and The Conquered, Naomi Mitchison was also a driven socialist. She served as an advisor to Botswana’s Bakgatla tribe and had also been a farmer. Honored with numerous awards and honorary doctorates, she lived till age 101.

 40 George Buchanan

George Buchanan
2
Famous As: linguist, poet, historian, translator
Birthdate: February 1, 1506
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Killearn
Died: September 28, 1582

 41 John Galt

John Galt
2
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: May 2, 1779
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Irvine, Ayrshire, Scotland
Died: April 11, 1839

John Galt was a Scottish entrepreneur, novelist, and social and political commentator. Often referred to as the first English-language political novelist, Galt wrote extensively on issues pertaining to the Industrial Revolution. John Galt is also known as the father of Sir Alexander Tilloch Galt, who went on to become one of the fathers of the Canadian Confederation.

 42 Eric Linklater

Eric Linklater
2
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.

 43 Margaret Oliphant Oliphant

Margaret Oliphant Oliphant
2
Famous As: Novelist and Historical Writer
Birthdate: April 4, 1828
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Wallyford, Scotland
Died: June 20, 1897
Though a talented writer since childhood, Margaret Oliphant Oliphant started her professional writing career as a means to provide for her family after her husband’s death, she later gained fame as one of the most prominent Scottish historical authors. She is best remembered for The Chronicles of Carlingford.

 44 Aminatta Forna

Aminatta Forna
2
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: October 31, 1964
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Bellshill, Lanarkshire, Scotland

Aminatta Forna is a writer whose novel The Memory of Love won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize in 2011. Forna was also honored with the prestigious Windham–Campbell Literature Prize in 2014. She also teaches creative writing at many universities and supports several young and aspiring writers. In the 2017 New Year Honours, Forna was appointed OBE for services to literature. 

 45 William Dunbar

William Dunbar
2
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: 1459 AD
Birthplace: Scotland
Died: 1530 AD

Once the court poet of King James IV of Scotland, William Dunbar remains one of the most reputed Chaucerians of his time. Known for allegorical pieces such as The Goldyn Targe, he also penned works such as Flyting of Dunbar and Kennedie, directed against his rival Walter Kennedy.

 46 Helen MacInnes

Helen MacInnes
2
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: October 7, 1907
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Glasgow, Scotland,United Kingdom
Died: September 30, 1985

 47 Henry Drummond

Henry Drummond
2
Famous As: Author, University teacher, Writer
Birthdate: August 17, 1851
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Stirling, United Kingdom
Died: March 11, 1897

 48 Edwin Muir

Edwin Muir
2
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: May 15, 1887
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Deerness, Scotland
Died: January 3, 1959

Edwin Muir was a Scottish novelist, poet, and translator best remembered for his vivid and deeply felt poetry written with few stylistic preoccupations. A prolific translator, Muir was honored with the prestigious Johann-Heinrich-Voss Translation Award in 1958.

 49 Edwin Morgan

Edwin Morgan
2
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: April 27, 1920
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Glasgow, Scotland
Died: August 17, 2010

One of the last of the great poets of the Scottish literary renaissance, Edwin Morgan became the first Glasgow Poet Laureate, was named the National Poet of Scotland, and was once invited to pen a poem to open the Scottish Parliament. The gay poet revealed his sexuality through love poems such as Strawberries.

 50 Eric Temple Bell

Eric Temple Bell
2
Famous As: Mathematician, Historian of mathematics, Novelist, Writer, Science fiction writer
Birthdate: February 7, 1883
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Peterhead
Died: December 21, 1960

Born to a Scottish factor, mathematician Eric Temple Bell spent most of his life in the U.S. The Stanford alumnus contributed to the analytic number theory and also taught math at institutes such as Caltech. He also penned sci-fi novels such as The Time Stream as John Taine.