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Scots Who Made A Difference

N
NAIRNE, CAROLINA, Baroness (1766-1845)
Scots world wide may be familiar with the words of the lovely songs "Charlie is my Darling," "The hundred Pipers," "The Land o' the Leal" and the haunting lament of "Will Ye No Come Back Again." Few may know that they were composed by Carolina Nairne, the poetess, songwriter and laureate of the doomed Jacobite cause. Carolina's father, Laurence Oliphant was exiled from 1745-63. She began writing her patriotic songs in the folk tradition, following the example set by Robert Burns. When the Jacobite families had their titles restored in 1824, she became Baroness as wife of the 5th Baron Nairne.

Baroness Nairne was known as "The Flower of Strathearn." Her songs quickly found their way into the folk repertory of Scotland and have remained immensely popular ever since. They first appeared in The Scottish Minstrel (1821-24) under the pseudonym "Mrs Bogan of Bogan." In 1846, a collected edition was published as Lays from Strathearn.


NAPIER, SIR CHARLES (1786-1860)
Sir Charles Napier was born at Falkirk, Stirling. Known in Britain as "Black Charley" and "Mad Charley," he rose from midshipman to Admiral in both the Portuguese and British Navies. Napier began his ascent by serving in the Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812 against the fledgling republic of the United States. He then served Portugal as Commander of its loyalist navy, destroying the fleet of Dom Miguel, pretender to the Portuguese throne (against the claims of Princess Maria da Gloria, later Queen Maria II). He also helped defend Lisbon against the "Miguelites."

In 1836, Napier rejoined the British Navy, taking part in the Syrian Expedition of 1840-44. He next commanded the Channel Fleet until the start of the Crimean War in 1853 when he was appointed to head the Baltic Fleet. His refusal to attack the Russian naval base at Kronshtadt led to his recall and forced retirement.


NAPIER, JOHN (1550-1617)
As a young student in Britain before the advent of computers made mathematics a less troublesome chore, the author remembers struggling mightily to comprehend logarithm tables. Yet for hundreds of years, these aids to mathematical calculations were invaluable and irreplaceable. Without them, math would have come to a complete standstill. They were invented by theologian and mathematician John Napier of Merchiston Castle, near Edinburgh. After the publication of his Plaine Discovery of the Whole Revelation of Saint John in 1594, Napier turned to other pursuits, including weaponry and mathematics. His two books on Logarithms, written in Latin are translated as Description of the Marvelous Canon of Logarithms (1614, tr. 1857) and Construction of the Marvelous Canon of Logarithms (1619, tr. 1889).


NASMYTH, JAMES (1808-90)
To the benefit of heavy industry everywhere, James Nasmyth of Edinburgh invented the steam hammer in 1839. The young James worked in London at the Lambeth Engine Works before setting up his own shop in Edinburgh. He then moved to Manchester to specialize in the development of machine tools, but also built hydraulic pressure pumps and over 100 locomotives. Not only did he invent the steam hammer, but also a much-needed safety handle for foundries and the steam pile-driver.

At Paticroft, where he built the Bridgewater Factory in 1837, Nasmyth introduced the forerunner of the assembly line (in order to forestall the activities of the developing unions). An amateur astronomer, Nasmyth built his own reflective telescope and was the first person to observe solar flares. In 1874 he published an important paper on the moon's surface. His greatest fame, however, comes as the inventor and manufacturer of standard automatic machine tools -- reducing the dependence of industrialists on skilled labor and thus, along with his assembly line, ushering in the age of mass production.


NEILSON, JAMES BEAUMONT (1792-1865)
The development of heavy industry in the 19th century was severely impeded by the slow, uncertain methods of iron making. For one thing, the vast supplies of anthracite coal in Britain (and the US) could not be used in blast furnaces. It was too difficult to ignite the fuel, mainly used in small furnaces or in New York City for making pathways. In 1828, James Neilson solved the problem. He ignored the usual method of using cold blast to pump air into the furnace (iron makers didn't realize that it was the moisture in the summer air that made the low yield and not the warmer air) and instead used a stove to heat the air. The output of iron tripled and the industrial revolution, with all its blessings and horrors was put into full gear.

Neilson was appointed foreman of the Glasgow Gasworks in 1817, where he had amply opportunity to put his theories to work. The use of lower grade ores, especially anthracite coal, after Neilson's patent had been brought to Wales by iron master David Thomas, helped end the reliance of iron smelters on the rapidly diminishing supplies of charcoal. The use of hot blast in the furnaces of Pennsylvania, after Thomas had been induced to settle there, completely transformed American industry at a time when iron was being used in the building of ships, and more importantly, for the new railroads. Neilson's invention had arrived just in time.


NITHSDALE, WILLIAM MAXWELL, 5th Earl (1676-1744)
Though William Maxwell had little influence over subsequent Scottish history, his story is worth telling, for it adds much to the romantic nature expected of Scottish heroes and heroines. A strong supporter of the House of Stuart, Maxwell was captured at Preston in 1715 and condemned to death by the English government.

Imprisoned in the Tower of London, William would have languished until his execution but for his resourceful wife Winifred (who perhaps should be listed here instead of her husband, except that she was Welsh). Winifred, daughter of the Marquis of Powys, tried to bring about her husband's release but the German-speaking King of England, the Hanoverian George I refused. Winifred, with two other women, then somehow gained access to the Tower, disguised her husband as a woman and got him out one day before his scheduled execution. The couple then managed to flee to France and safety.


NOBLE, SIR ANDREW, 1st Baronet
The name of Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel (who set up a works to produce nitroglycerine at Ardeer, Ayrshire in 1871) is world famous for his bequest of the Nobel Peace Prize, yet he was a manufacturer of gunpowder. The name of Andrew Nobel is not as well known, yet he is considered the father of the science of ballistics, by which gunpowder could be put to its most effective and deadly use. From Greenock, Renfrew, this physicist and gunnery expert did research on fired gunpowder, often with English chemist Frederick Abel and contributed greatly to the progress of gunnery, making it an exact science instead of a hit-or-miss affair.

After leaving Edinburgh Academy, Noble studied at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, entered the Royal Artillery in 1849 and devised a method to compare the accuracy of fire from each gun. After joining an engineering firm, he applied his invention, which he called the chronoscope, to determine the velocity of shot in gun barrels by measuring very small time intervals. He thus established the science of ballistics. In addition, his invention led to new types of gunpowder, a redesign of guns and new, faster and safer methods of loading.

  

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