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Invented in Canada

Invented in Canada

Canadarm and Canadarm 2

One of the defining moments in Canadian popular culture and in recent history was the viral Youtube video of Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield doing a cover of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Hadfield had many great achievements during his time in the ISS. A highlight was connecting the Canadarm2 to the International Space Station in 2001. Canadarm2 is the aptly named second version of the original Canadarm which is “Canada’s most famous robotic and technological achievement” according to the Canadian Space Agency’s government webpage. The Canadarm and Canadarm2 are massive achievements in bringing Canada into the international stage as a country with talents to be shared.

Source: Kostyn Petrunick, Brock News, Brock University

Insulin extraction and purification

The University of Toronto is a prestigious institution which has made many criti

Photo: Banting and Best (NOTE: Crop photo so caption embedded at bottom doesn’t show)
Caption: Charles Best (left) with Frederick Banting with a diabetic dog saved by insulin.

cal scientific breakthroughs and discoveries and produced many great thinkers in every discipline of study. Though we as Canadians often claim the invention/discovery of insulin by researchers at U of T, this piece of historical data is contested internationally and it would be unfair for us to not acknowledge that all great works of invention and science are an international effort. In recognizing this, we can celebrate the fine work of four Canadian scientists at the University of Toronto: Drs. Frederick Banting, John J.R. Macleod, Charles Best, and James Collip who worked quickly and tirelessly to uncover the missing pancreatic secretion which would prevent diabetes — insulin — in 1921 allowing for the treatment of many who prior to this discovery, were subjected to fatal diagnoses.

Discovery of stem cells

The field of stem cell research began in Canada in the 1960s through

Photo: James Till Source: Networks of Centres of Excellence

the pioneering work of Drs. James Till and Ernest McCulloch at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto. That foundational research trained a generation of world-class scientists who propelled Canada to the top of the charts in regenerative medicine. Today, Toronto continues to be a global hotbed for stem cell and regenerative medicine discoveries.


In 1958 Joseph-Armand Bombardier designed what we know today as the snowmobile. And in 1959, Bombardier helped spread the idea by marketing and commercially producing this quick-moving snow vehicle for the public under the brand name “Ski-Doo.” Bombardier went on to receive patents in both Canada (1960) and the U.S. (1962) and was the first to successfully market snowmobiles. Today, the essential winter vehicle is used for recreation, as well as for search and rescue operations in parts of Canada, the U.S., Scandinavia, and mountainous parts of central Europe.

Photo: Bombardier B12-Snowmobile
Caption: The Bombardier B12 snowmobile

Key frame animation

Two scientists working for the National Research Council of Canada, Drs. Nestor Burtnyk and Marceli Wein, studied at McGill University and began work on computer imaging in the late 1960s. After a 1969 presentation from a Disney animator discussing the creation of cartoons the men had created the first key frame animation package in 1970 which allowed animators to draw keyframes from a sequence, instead of every frame. As a result, a computer program would fill in the rest of the movement.

Caption: In 1997, NRC’s Nestor Burtnyk and Marceli Wein were honoured with an Academy Award for Technical Achievement recognizing their role as pioneers of animation key frame technology, which was demonstrated in the 1974 animation short, Hunger (La faim). (Photo: National Research Council) Source: Kostyn Petrunick, Brock News

The modern alkaline dry battery

Unless it’s plugged into a wall, the majority of devices we interact with on a day-to-day basis are battery-powered. Though our smart phones, cameras and portable gaming systems have moved beyond them, all of these and more were powered by alkaline dry batteries until recently and most electronic children’s toys, and common household remotes still use them. This feat of engineering was the product of University of Toronto alumni Dr. Lewis Urry who worked with Thomas Edison’s first prototypes of alkaline batteries in effort to improve the then used carbon-zinc battery. His work eventually led to the creation of the modern alkaline dry battery, the Energizer.

Photo: Lewis Urry
Caption: Lewis Urry gave his prototype alkaline battery to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History.

Mosquito repellant

For many Canadians, mosquitos are merely a tolerated summer nuisance, but in many countries around the world they carry diseases


like malaria, West Nile and Zika. Help came in 1951 when Canadian inventor Colonel Charles Coll of Nova Scotia came up with a formulation after mixing some paint in his basement workshop. Eight years later, he registered the name Muskol. Today, the product is owned by Bayer Inc. who still manufactures the repellent in Canada at a factory near Toronto.

Java script

University of Calgary graduate James Gosling is credited with creating the powerf

Photo: James Gosling – Java script
Caption: James Gosling (Photo: Peter Campbell, Creative Commons)

ul and popular Java programming language used to build much of the world’s business software and Android mobile apps. He developed the program while at Sun Microsystems. This spring, the legendary computer scientist left Boeing Defence to become a distinguished engineer at Amazon Web Services. Today, Java is the force behind many smartphone apps, e-business solutions, and navigation tools.


In just a few decades, canola has become one of the world’s most important oilseed crops and the most profitable commodity for Canadian farmers. It also produces the world’s healthiest vege

Photo: Canola flower
Caption: (Photo: Canola Council of Canada)

table oil. Canola was developed by researchers from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the University of Manitoba in the 1970s, using traditional plant breeding techniques. Canada exports 90% of its canola as seed, oil or meal to 50 markets around the world, bringing billions of dollars into Canada. The biggest buyer of canola oil and meal is the United States, accounting for about 65% of oil exports and 82% of meal exports in 2016. For raw seed, the most important destinations are China, Japan and Mexico.

3TC for HIV and Hepatitis B

3TC is the most widely used drug in the world for treating HIV. It was developed in the 1980s by Drs. Francesco Bellini, Gervais Dionne, and Bernard Belleau, founders of Montreal-based BioChem Pharma. 3TC was later approved as an oral treatment for chronic hepatitis B (HBV). The drug is also used to treat children at risk of acquiring the virus through mother-to-child transmission during pregnancy, labour or breastfeeding. 3TC has saved and continues to save millions of people.

Photo: Francesco Bellini
Caption: Francesco Bellini (Photo: Owen Egan, McGill University)

Polio vaccine

Canada played a critical role in the development, production, and licensing of the polio vaccine in 1955 – and the subsequent elimination of the disease. Under the efforts o

Photo: Jonas Salk
Caption: Jonas Salk

f U.S. researcher Dr. Jonas Salk, the Connaught Medical Research Laboratories at the University of Toronto enabled the polio virus to be cultivated and the vaccine produced in quantities large enough to facilitate Salk’s massive trial, involving roughly 1.8 million children. Polio affected roughly 47,000 Canadians between 1927 and 1953. After the Salk vaccine was licensed in 1955, Canada reported its last case of polio infection in 1977.

The pacemaker

The first cardiac pacemaker was invented by a Canadian electrical engineer, John Hopps, who was researching the effects of radio frequency heating on hypothermia in 1941. He found that if the heart stopped beating when its temperature dropped, that it could be restarted artificially, using mechanical or electrical stimulation to make it beat. This research allowed the development of the first cardiac defibrillation machine, which was used by Hopps to start a dog’s heart in 1949.


Photo: Pacemaker
Caption: John Hopps (far right) and his colleagues with their first pacemaker in 1975. (Photo: University Health Network Artifact Collection)

Electric wheelchair

The National Research Council’s George Klein invented the first truly practical electric wheelchair when he fixed the flaws of earlier designs, by increasing the electric drive’s voltage, adding independent drives to the wheels and adding a sophisticated control device that looked like a “joystick”.

Source: National Research Council
Photo: Wheelchair (NRC)
Caption: George Klein (left) and his NRC colleague Robert Owens with an early prototype of the electric wheelchair in the early 1950s. (Photo: National Research Council)

Electron microscope

In 1938, University of Toronto physicist Dr. Eli Franklin Burton led a team of graduate students (James Hillier, Cecil Hall and Albert Prebus) that resulted in the first practical electron microscope, an extremely useful tool with many industrial applications in areas as diverse as plastics and textiles manufacturing and the examination of metallic and crystalline structures.


Frederick FItzgerald Tisdall, Theodore G.H. Drake, and Alan Brown from the H

Source: University of Toronto
Photo: Paplum (no caption)

ospital for Sick Children were responsible for the development and production of Pablum, a cereal-like food meant for the improvement of infant nutrition. Pablum was a combination of minerals and vitamins needed by growing children and a ground, pre-cooked mixture of starches. The product dominated infant feeding for decades after its introduction in 1930 and its royalties contributed to supporting the research at the hospital for the next 25 five years.

Radiation therapy

Canada ushered in the age of modern nuclear medicine in 1951, when the first cancer patients were given quick and successive radiation treatment from cobalt-60 therapy units at the Victoria Hospital in London, ON, and at the Saskatchewan Cancer Commission in Saskatoon. Although ionizing radiation from radium and X-rays had been used for decades in cancer treatment, it was either too weak to penetrate far enough to treat deep tumours, or prohibitively expensive. In 1947, the National Research Experimental Reactor at Chalk River, Ont., began producing radioactive cobalt-60 isotopes about 100 times more radioactive than radium and far cheaper to produce.

John Hopps (far right) and his colleagues with their first
pacemaker in 1975 (Photo: University Health Network
Artifact Collection)


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