Canada has given the world a lot over the years, from food like poutine and nanaimo bars, to statesmen like Lester B Pearson (winner of the Nobel Peace Prize), to sports like hockey, lacrosse, 5-pin bowling and basketball, to countless entertainers like Shania Twain, John Candy, and even Justin Bieber. But that is just the tip of the iceberg. Let’s take a look at our top 8 Canadian inventions.
8: Instant Replay
CBC Television producer George Retzlaff first invented the instant (or, as some might point out, near-instant replay) in 1955 during, of course, Hockey Night in Canada. The replays were not technically instant but would be re-shown within a matter of minutes. Retzlaff’s version pre-dated that of Tony Verna, an American who eventually created a more fine-tuned system 8 years later. Watching sports has never been the same.
7: The Wonderbra
The now near-ubiquitous undergarment was invented by Moe Nadler in Montreal in 1939. Before its widespread use the norm was still for women to wear restrictive, uncomfortable garments like corsets and girdles. The invention coincided with the increasing rights and participation of women in society.
6: The Walkie Talkie
Alfred J Gross, a Toronto born inventor was obsessed with radio from a young age, converting his childhood basement into a ham-radio operating center as a 12 year old. By 1938 his handheld radio transmitter-receiver attracted the interest of the US Army which was investing in military tech during the buildup to WWII. His invention was soon further developed and changed communication forever. The idea of portable hand-held communication could even be considered the forefather of today’s modern super phones.
5: Standard Time
Prior to the invention of Standard Time, time was a subjective, localised concept determined by the position of the sun in local communities. With the advent and increased use of railways the use of localised time became an issue. Without a standard time long-distance travel is all but impossible. Coordinating individual itineraries, not to mention avoiding potentially catastrophic train crashes relies on standardised time. Sir Sandford Fleming was Canada’s preeminent railway surveyor and engineer in the 19th century. While the UK and other small locations had already adopted some types of standardised time, Fleming looked to expand the concept globally. Flemming used Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) as the base for his system which divided the world into 24 time zones.
4: The Telephone
Alexander Graham Bell, originally from Scotland, moved to Brantford, Ontario with his parents where he worked as a speech therapist for the deaf with his father. Moving between Brantford, Ontario and Boston, USA, Bell changed the world forever with his invention – the telephone. Like Sir Sandford Fleming, Alexander Graham Bell helped build the interconnected, modern world we live in.
3: AM Radio
These days AM radio is not exactly an illustrious, exciting sounding invention. It is better known for talk radio and obscure music. But when Reginald Aubrey Fessenden of East-Bolton, Quebec invented AM radio in 1906 it was a really big, world-changing invention. Fessenden is also considered by many to be the first person to transmit radio and voice via radio waves. Fessenden’s invention allowed for multiple stations could send signals. Fessenden’s invention changed radio and through that how we consume music, news and other media, not to mention the thousands of inventions that have built on the work he started.
In 1922 scientists Frederick Banting, James Collip and Charles Best discovered insulin and the role it plays in diabetes. Although they didn’t actually invent it – as it is a naturally occurring hormone produced in the pancreas – their discovery has changed, saved and prolonged millions of lives around the world.
1: The Pacemaker
Dr. William Bigelow, Dr. John Callaghan and an electrical engineer, John Hopps, worked together in order to find a method of restarting and regulating the heart with a small amount of electrical stimulation. The three produced the first Pacemaker in 1950. It was so large (3lbs) that it the majority of the device remained external. It wasn’t until 1958 that the device was implanted in a patient for the first time. They have since shrunk to the size of loonie and have been implanted in hundreds of thousands of patients around the world, saving lives every single day. The device is also the first in a growing trend of implanted medical technologies which continue to revolutionise healthcare.
More than just the top 8 Canadian inventions!
Canadian inventions have impacted all aspects of modern life but, in our list, we can see that some of the greatest Canadian inventions have come in the medical and communication fields. It makes sense: helping others and communicating with people near and far have always been Canadian values.
Here’s some other notable Canadian inventions: the zamboni, the goalie mask, the steam powered fog-horn, Superman, the Java programming language, the Ski-doo, the paint-roller, IMAX, canola, instant mashed potatoes, butter tarts, the pager, radio telephony, the electric wheelchair, the wheelchair accessible bus, separate baggage check, the hydrofoil, jetliners, Canadarm, prosthetic hand, snow blower, rotary snowplow, gas mask, the jockstrap, table hockey, electron microscope, plexiglass, garbage bags, caulking gun, egg carton, Robertson screw and many more.
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