Top 10 Canadian Innovations
Canada is home to many great technological innovations over our past 150 years. In celebration of our great country’s 150th birthday, we’re listing our top 10 favourite Canadian innovations
We’re shooting things off with the game of basketball! The sport popularized by Americans was actually invented by a Canadian. Dr. James Naismith from Almonte, Ontario studied physical education at McGill University before moving to Springfield, Massachusetts. While teaching there in 1891, he created the game of basketball where he showed his students two peach baskets at opposite ends of the gym and instructed them to score on the opposing team by throwing a ball in the opposite basket- thus marking the first ever game of basketball.
Born in Quebec during the 1840s, Marcellus Gilmore Edson was an English Canadian pharmacist that first patented modern peanut butter. Edson first developed the idea of a peanut paste as a delicious and nutritious snack for those who had difficulty chewing solid food. The patent was based on the process of milling roasted peanuts to produce a peanut paste which is then thickened by the mixing of sugar. Since its debut hundreds of years ago, peanut butter has proven to be a timeless food spread- a staple in households in North America.
The immersive movie experience that has taken over the globe as the definitive blockbuster film format was first developed in Montreal. What began as an experimental film screen installation at the 1967 Expo, a small group of Canadian filmmakers synced nine projectors together to create the first large-screen film experience. The first permanent IMAX projection system was installed in 1971 at the Ontario Place’s Cinesphere in Toronto. Today, more than 800 IMAX theatres in 57 countries all over the world show movies filmed on IMAX-capable camera systems. The company has also collaborated with Hollywood-renown directors such as Christopher Nolan, James Cameron, Tim Burton and Michael Bay.
The modern battery was invented by Canadian inventor Lewis Urry in 1954. Urry graduated from the University of Toronto in 1950 with a degree in chemical engineering. Building on earlier work by Thomas Edison, his experiments lead to the invention of a battery based on the reaction between zinc and manganese dioxide. Today, alkaline batteries account for 80% of consumer manufactured batteries in the United States.
The famous two-way communications tool was invented by Donald L. Hings for the Canadian military during World War II. They were initially labeled simply as two-way field radios as well as “pack sets”. The first batch of this technological invention was largely ignored by the world until the military realized their potential as valuable military technology. The walkie-talkie was originally invented for bush pilots flying between mining sites, but now we predominantly use these communication devices for various practices ranging from security personnel to children’s toys.
Patented in 1909, Peter Lymburner Robertson designed the Robertson Drive screwdriver, a square-socketed driver and screw that could be tightened more quickly and reduced slippage compared to other screwdrivers. Robertson decided to improve the tool after he cut his hand using a spring-loaded screwdriver in Montreal while working as a salesman for a tool company in Philadelphia. Although the Robertson screwdriver is most widely adopted in Canada, it is used extensively for boat building around the world.
Arguably Canada’s most famous international achievement in robotics and technology, the Canadarm is a 15-metre remote-controlled mechanical arm in space where it captured and repaired satellites, positioned astronauts, maintained equipment and moved cargo. The Canadarm was capable of lifting over 30,000kg on Earth and 266,000kg in the weightlessness of space- at speeds of up to 60cm per second. It made its debut in 1981 on the Space Shuttle Columbia and retired in July 2011.
John Hopps, a Canadian electrical engineer, created the first cardiac pacemaker in 1950 through researching the effects of radio frequency heating on hypothermia. He found that a non-beating heart could be restarted artificially using mechanical or electrical stimulation. Through research and development, Hopps was able to successfully start a dog’s heart as his first experiment. In 1958, the pacemaker was implanted into the first human; today, the pacemaker has saved millions of lives- including Hopp’s own at one point.
Scottish born Alexander Graham Bell lived in Brantford, Ontario for much of his adult life and is widely credited with inventing the telephone in 1877. He combined his interest in sound and communication which led to the development of the telephone. Bell patented his invention and promoted its commercial development under the company Bell Telephone Co. which began in 1877 and still stands today as one of Canada’s largest communications companies.
Last but not least, the discovery of insulin is regarded as one of the most important milestones in modern medicine. In 1921, Canadian physician and surgeon Frederick Banting and medical student Charles H. Best discovered the hormone insulin within the pancreatic extracts of dogs. By injecting the hormone into a dog, they found that it lowered levels of high blood glucose back to normal. The development of insulin then progressed with Canadian chemist James B. Collip and Scottish physiologist J.J.R Macleod. Their first successful medical use of insulin on a human was with 14-year old Leonard Thompson who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Insulin helped the boy bounce back from a near death experience in 1922.