FROM the bicycle to the telephone, penicillin to animal cloning, Scotland has long been at the heart of the world’s greatest inventions.
Now the country’s innovative achievements are being showcased in a mobile museum set to stop off at public squares, city centres and schools across the Lothians to teach keen minds about the very best in inventive thinking.
The converted bus, known as the Travelling Museum of British Invention, has been fitted with 100 of the UK’s most important inventions and discoveries in a £150,000 investment.
Almost a third of them have links to Scotland, including the steam engine, the television and the humble light bulb.
The vehicle itself has been donated by transport firm First Scotland East and refurbished by arts organisation Sing London.
Travelling Museum producer Colette Hiller, from Sing London, said: “I wanted people to feel thrilled by what had been done here and surprised. It’s a blast of communal pride.”
Inventions are packed into nine themed “cabinets of wonders”, with each exhibit telling the story about an invention like the rawl plug using anecdotes, artefacts and the odd jar of facts.
Ms Hiller said: “The exhibits operate like Victorian cabinets of discovery. The more you open up, the more you find out.
“The medicine cabinet is very heavy on Scottish inventions. You have penicillin and you have the syringe and IVF. The idea is each of these stories is being told in three minute, very succinct experiences.
“There are many hands-on things. You hear the story of the NHS, in fact, through a stethoscope and what you hear is the very first radio announcement.”
Each set of visitors choose a themed bus route, with keys given to unlock just ten of the boxes at any one time.
The quirky stories include a letter from the RAF telling Frank Whittle, inventor of the jet engine, that it was “impractical” and had no future.
Neil McNaught, general manager at First Scotland East’s Livingston depot, said the bus could go places no static museum could. “If that links in with other good uses of public transport and shines a good light on transport operators, then that can only be a good thing for all of us,” he said.
The project is also being funded by the Scottish Government and the Royal Academy of Engineering.
The tour started yesterday in Livingston and will spend almost two months on the road around Scotland, finishing up in East Lothian on December 2.
Five of the best Scottish advancements on display
• Penicillin: One of the earliest discovered and most widely used antibiotic agents. Discovered in 1928.
• Lawnmower: The machine invented by Arbroath’s Alexander Shanks was the prototype for the modern lawnmower. The family business would go on to supply mowers to cut the tennis courts of Wimbledon and the Old Course at St Andrews.
• Animal cloning: Dolly the sheep, pictured, was the first mammal to be cloned. The work was done at the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute.
• First flushable toilet: Watchmaker Alexander Cummings invented the S-Trap flushable toilet in 1775. The model is still in use today.
• Golf: The modern game originated in 15th-century Scotland. The sport was banned in 1457 by James II because it distracted Scots from military training for wars against the English.