In honour of Canada’s 150th birthday we wanted to reflect on some of the greatest innovations and inventions that Canada has contributed to this world. Some of these I’m sure will surprise you!
Let’s take a look!
1. The Garbage Bag
Just after the end of the Second World War, the world would wake up to hundreds of metal garbage bins clattering and making horrendous noise on every single garbage day. Three men, all Canadian, began experimenting with a new material known as polyethylene. Harry Wasylyk, Larry Hanson and Frank Plomp began making plastic garbage bags out of this material. Union Carbide caught wind of this and decided to buy the idea from Wasylyk. That company would later go on to sell these bags under the name we are all most likely familiar with – Glad.
2. Peanut Butter
Peanut butter – a staple of an American breakfast, was actually invented by a Canadian. Contrary to popular belief the American botanist George Washington Carver did not invent this scrumptious, smooth, paste. In 1884 Marcellus Gilmore Edson of Montreal, Canada officially obtained a patent for peanut paste, allowing people who couldn’t chew solids to be able to consume nutritional food. Peanut Butter is 100% Canadian! Tell that to your American friends!
3. The Paint Roller
Back in 1940 the paint roller was invented in Toronto by Canadian Norman Breakey. He built this contraption to aid in painting flat surfaces at a much faster and efficient rate. Unfortunately, he died before he was ever able to patent his invention. American Richard Croxton Adams then went on to obtain the patent for the paint roller. Nonetheless, the idea – Canadian.
We’ve all been to the IMAX and been astounded by the massively huge screen. A huge idea born from the minds of 3 Canadian filmmakers – Graeme Ferguson, Roman Kroitor and Robert Kerr — in 1967. After they were asked to produced some large screen films for Expo ‘67 they quickly realized that the equipment they were using just wasn’t going to cut it. They then went on to create Multiscreen Corporation. With the help of engineer William Shaw, they created new cameras that would allow them to film in image maximum or ‘IMAX’ for short. The movie Tiger Child was screen at Expo ’70 and became the first-ever IMAX film.
The name JAVA nowadays is almost synonymous to the word programming. Did you know that JAVA is another Canadian born invention? The Java programming language was first developed in California in the early 1990s by James Gosling, an Alberta-born computer scientist. Java 1.0 was released by the company in 1995. According to Oracle, which bought Sun Microsystems, Java was meant to be used with “an interactive, handheld home-entertainment controller that was originally targeted at the digital cable television industry.” That was too advanced at the time, but the technology did get incorporated into Netscape Navigator, at the time a dominant web browser.
Java remains one of the top programming languages in use. You’re welcome, world!
6. The Electric Wheelchair
Pre-1950, all wheelchair bound individuals had no other options than to use their own arm strength to propel their way forward. All of this changed in 1953 when Canadian inventor George Klein developed the first electric wheelchair. Now people who were older or didn’t have proper mobility in their arms would be able to go wherever they pleased. George Klein eventually was asked to come out of retirement to consult on the Canadarm. The electric wheelchair is widely considered to be one of the greatest artifacts in the history of Canadian science, engineering and invention.
7. Wireless Radio Transmission
In case you were unaware Canadians have a great track record when it comes to the area of wireless inventions. Canadian inventor Reginald Aubrey Fessenden was very influential in this field. He was the first to broadcast on the AM radio band in 1900 and in 1906 issued the first transatlantic radio broadcast after having built two-way radio transmission towers in Boston and Scotland. Fessenden is also known for inventing sonar (underwater communications and depth sounding). Additionally, he held hundreds of patents, including for pagers, television, an X-ray machine, tea infusers, television, solar and wind power storage, turbo electric drive for ships, motorized toothbrushes and incandescent lamps. Basically, he invented all of the crucial things we use to survive and communicate in the 21 st century. Yay Canada!
8. Standard Time
In the 19th century and early 20th century, the time of day was a local matter. Each city used some sort of local time system. This proved to be extremely inconvenient for travelers who were taking advantage of the newly built railways. For the first time in history they were able to travel great distances in a short period of time. Every time they’d get to a new city, they’d constantly have to adjust their watches. Sir Sandford Fleming was the man with the solution to this problem. Fleming – a Scottish-Canadian – created a system in which Greenwich, England (at 0 degrees longitude) was established as the standard time. He then divided the world into 24 time zones, each a fixed time from the mean time. Fleming was inspired to create the standard time system after he missed the train in Ireland due to confusion over the time of departure. Fleming first recommended the standard to the Royal Canadian Institute in 1879, and he was instrumental in convening the 1884 International Prime Meridian Conference in Washington, at which the system of international standard time – still in use today – was adopted.
9. The Walkie-Talkie
The Walkie-Talkie, a crucial component in the lives of all young children and a must-have for a successful game of cops and robbers was invented by….you guessed it….a Canadian! Canadian inventor Donald Hings was the first to create a portable radio signaling system for his employer CM&S in 1937. He called the system a “packset” and it was intended for the Canadian military. The name wasn’t exactly all that glamorous or fun and was eventually changed to walkie-talkie. This later on gained popularity for home use and the world was hooked. Hooray for walk-talkies…[over]!
10. The McIntosh Apple
The famous McIntosh Apple (yes, the fruit), a must-have for every classroom teacher’s desk and every child’s breakfast and snack was discovered by Canadian John McIntosh on his Dundela farm in Upper Canada in 1811. He and his wife bred it, and the family started grafting the tree and selling the fruit in 1835. In 1870, it entered commercial production, and became common in northeastern North America after 1900. The McIntosh is considered an all-purpose apple, suitable both for cooking and eating raw and is also the inspiration behind Jef Raskin naming Apple’s personal computer line! The McIntosh is so Canadian that it, in fact, has been designated as the national Apple of Canada.
So, what do you think? Canadians are pretty cool, eh? Thanks to us the world can enjoy some of its greatest tools, products, and even foods. This is another reason why we’re all proud to say I AM CANADIAN!
Happy 150th birthday Canada!
By: Rafael Avila