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11 Things That Were Invented, Pioneered and Discovered By Dundee

Dundee is one of the most innovative cities in the world. The city, and its people have invented, pioneered and discovered many things, and today, Dundee Culture looks at the top eleven things that were invented, pioneered and discovered by Dundee and it's people.

11. Abbey Road cover

The cover of Abbey Road by the Beatles is arguably one of the most iconic photographs ever taken - and it was taken by a Dundee photographer, Iain Macmillan.

Iain stood on a ladder in the middle of the road and took several shots of the Beatles walking across the street on the zebra crossing.

Iain's work has lived on as millions who flock to visit London each year come and visit the crossing, and recreate the shots that he took.

10. Beatlemania

Continuing on the subject of the Beatles, the term 'Beatlemania' was actually coined in Dundee during their concert at the Caird Hall on 7 October 1963, when the phrase was first coined by promoter Andi Lothian.

The term would then go global with the phrase referring to the craze and influence the Beatles had on global pop culture.

9. Grand Theft Auto

Grand Theft Auto, considered to be one of the best video game series of all time, was developed in Dundee in 1997 by DMA Design.

The video game series has went on to sell millions of copies worldwide and it is hard to believe that it all started out in a studio at the city's Technology Park.

DMA Design was later bought over and rebranded to Rockstar North, and it later moved headquarters to Edinburgh. Despite this, they haven't forgot their roots as they still reference Dundee in many of their games.

The next instalment, Grand Theft Auto VI, is expected to release next year.

8. White dwarf stars

The discovery of the first white dwarf star is credited to Williamina Fleming, a Dundonian maid, turned astronomer who worked at the Harvard College Observatory.

As stated by NASA:

A white dwarf is what stars like the Sun become after they have exhausted their nuclear fuel. Near the end of its nuclear burning stage, this type of star expels most of its outer material, creating a planetary nebula. Only the hot core of the star remains.

7. The Horsehead Nebula

White dwarf stars were not the only thing that Williamina discovered - as she went on to discover the absolutely stunning Horsehead Nebula during her time at the observatory.

The Horsehead Nebula is one of the most popular nebulae among astronomers globally and is still one of the greatest discoveries made by any astronomer.

6. Marmalade

Marmalade has roots here in Dundee, thanks to Janet Keiller who is credited for inventing Dundee marmalade.

The story goes that she bought a large quantity of Seville oranges cheaply when a cargo of the fruit arrived in Dundee, and to avoid wasting them, she turned them into marmalade.

Keiller's marmalade became popular locally and eventually gained wider recognition. The Keiller family business later became known for producing and selling Dundee marmalade commercially, contributing to its widespread popularity.

5. Aspirin

Thomas McLaggan was a pioneer of aspirin. The Dundee doctor had worked at the Dundee Royal Infirmary in the 1868, and used salicin to treat patients who were sick.

The use of salicin would then be taken as a component in what later would become aspirin.

Thomas McLaggan is immortalised in the city thanks to his pioneering efforts, having a street named after him at Ninewells.

4. Airplanes and the method of flight

The Wright brothers are credited for building and inventing the first airplanes, however it was Preston Watson who helped pioneer a method of flight that is still used to this day.

The Wright brothers’ pioneering plane was controlled by warping and twisting the machines of their aeroplane — however for Preston when testing out his second aeroplane which he built, he recycled this technique from the Wright brothers however he fitted an extra rocking wing above the main wing, thus managing to lean the the plane and from one side or the other, the pilot could correct deviations from a straight line of flight and control the machine to make it turn the way he wanted.

Preston’s career was successful in many ways. He invented a new way of flying, a method still used in aeroplanes to this very day and he was among the first group of pioneers in the early years of aviation along with the likes of the Wright brothers, Alberto Santos-Dumont and Louis Blériot.

3. Adhesive postage stamp

In the 1830s, a man by the name of James Chalmers, worked as a bookseller and publisher in Dundee. He proposed the idea of prepaid postage stamps as a solution to the inefficiencies of the postal system at the time.

Chalmers' concept involved the use of a small piece of paper with an adhesive backing that could be affixed to a letter to indicate that postage had been paid. He presented his idea to the UK Parliament in 1837, but it was initially rejected.

However, his idea gained traction over time, and in 1840, the world's first adhesive postage stamp, the Penny Black, was issued in the United Kingdom.

Despite his significant role in the advancement of postal services, Chalmers struggled financially and did not receive widespread recognition during his lifetime.

2. Incandescent light bulb

Thomas Edison is often credited for the invention of the light bulb, however he did not exactly invent it, nor was he the first to demonstrate it.

In the 1850s, James Bowman Lindsey, a man who lived in Dundee, began experimenting with electric lighting. He developed an incandescent lamp using a platinum filament enclosed in a vacuum bulb. Lindsey's design was one of the earliest attempts at creating a practical electric light bulb, preceding the work of Thomas Edison and other notable inventors in the field.

In July 1835, Lindsay demonstrated a constant electric lamp at a public meeting at Dundee's Thistle Hall. He could "read a book at a distance of one and a half feet". Despite this landmark achievement, Lindsey didn't advance his pioneering work, but it did pass on to help other pioneers invent the modern day light bulb.

1. Statistical graphs

One of, if not the most impressive invention that is attributed to Dundee is statistical graphs.

William Playfair, who was born in Benvie, on the outskirts of the city, invented the statistical graphs, including bar charts, line charts and pie charts.

Playfair published several works on economics and statistics, including "The Commercial and Political Atlas" (1786), which contained numerous graphical representations of economic data.

Playfair's graphical methods helped make complex data more accessible and understandable, laying the groundwork for modern data visualization techniques.


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