Fleming tops poll of most important Scots in history


SIR Alexander Fleming has emerged as the most important figure in Scotland’s history, easily beating off competition from the likes of William Wallace, Alexander Graham Bell and Sir Alex Ferguson.

Polling firm YouGov asked more than 1,000 Scots to pick the top Scottish historical figure from a list of eleven influential people.

Fleming – the scientist who discovered penicillin and saved an estimated 200 million lives – got almost twice as many votes as his nearest rival, Robert the Bruce.

Those surveyed were asked: “Which one, if any, of the following historic figures do you believe has been most important to Scotland’s history?”

The biologist from Ayrshire, was way out in front as the most important amongst Scots with a whopping 28% of the vote.

In second-place was Robert the Bruce, who got 17% while William Wallace came in third place with 15% of the vote.


Fleming beat his next nearest rival comfortably
Fleming beat his next nearest rival comfortably


James Watt, the mechanical engineer who perfected the steam engine, got 10% of the vote.
Adam Smith, the father of modern economics, and James Keir Hardie, the first Labour member of parliament, were tied on 7%.

Surprisingly, Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, was left languishing some way back in the vote with only 6% of the vote.

It appears Scots don’t rank historical achievements in sport as particularly important, as former Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, came last, with only 1% of the vote despite his record-breaking trophy haul.

Only 1% of the 1,051 Scots surveyed said that none of the people listed were who they would be consider to be Scotland’s most important historical figure.

John Logie Baird, the inventor of television, got 5% of the vote. He only got 2% of the vote from 18-24 year olds but this figure tripled to 6% of votes from the over 55s.

Interestingly, Mary, Queen of Scots only received 2% of votes. Elsie Inglis, founder of Scottish Women’s hospitals got 3% of the overall vote, with 5% of that coming from women and just 1% from men.

Ben Glanville, Director at YouGov said: “YouGov conducted research among Scottish adults to find out who has been most important figure in Scotland’s history.

“Alexander Fleming topped our poll, beating highly influential and lauded figures from the country’s recent and not so recent past.

“Above all, it clearly highlights Fleming’s enduring impact and status.”

Interestingly, Fleming’s vote remained strong across the age groups. He scored 20% with the 18-24 year olds, however it did shoot up to 36% with the over 55s.

The most important Scot for those aged between 18-24 was Robert the Bruce. The former King of Scots achieved 22% of the vote from youngsters asked.

Despite struggling for votes overall, Sir Alex Ferguson grabbed 4% of the vote from 25 to 34 year olds, perhaps as they are the age group to grow up with his dominant, treble winning side of the 1990s.

William Wallace achieved 20% of votes from 18-24 year olds, fresh from learning about him in school, however the votes gradually declined to just 12% from the over 55s.

Sir Alexander Fleming revolutionised medicine in 1928 when he discovered penicillin, the world’s first antibiotic.

He was knighted for his scientific achievements in 1944 and has also been named in ‘Time’ magazine’s list of 100 most important people of the 20th century.

He was also the highest placed Scot in a BBC list of 100 greatest Britons from 2002, coming in at number 20.