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Canadian Astronauts

An astronaut is an individual involved in flight beyond the Earth’s atmosphere. Since the Canadian Space Agency held its first recruitment campaign in 1983, 14 Canadians have completed astronaut training and nine have participated in 17 missions to space. Specifically, they have flown as payload specialists, mission specialists, and flight engineers on NASA shuttle flights and expeditions to the International Space Station (ISS). Canadian astronauts have played key roles in repairing satellites and building the ISS using the Canadarm and Canadarm2 robotic technologies, and have advanced scientific knowledge by conducting a variety of experiments in space.

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Irene Uchida

Irene Ayako Uchida, OC, geneticist (born 8 April 1917 in Vancouver, BC; died 30 July 2013 in Toronto, ON). Dr. Uchida pioneered the field of cytogenetics in Canada, enabling early screening for chromosomal abnormalities (i.e., changes in chromosomes caused by genetic mutations). She discovered that women who receive X-rays during pregnancy have a higher chance of giving birth to a baby with Down syndrome and other chromosomal abnormalities. She also discovered that the extra chromosome that causes Down syndrome may come from either parent, not only the mother.

Click here for definitions of key terms used in this article.

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Oronhyatekha

Oronhyatekha (pronounced O-RON-ya-day-ga, meaning "Burning Sky" or “Burning Cloud”), also known as Peter Martin, a Kanyen'kehà:ka (Mohawk) medical doctor and businessman (born 10 August 1841 on the Six Nations of the Grand River reserve near Brantford, Canada West [now Ontario]; died 3 March 1907 in Savannah, Georgia, US). In 1867, Oronhyatekha became the second Indigenous person in Canada to earn a medical degree. Passionate about Indigenous issues, he was elected to the Grand General Indian Council of Ontario and Quebec in 1872, where he fought against the restrictive measures of the Indian Act. Oronhyatekha was also a businessman and, in 1881, headed the Independent Order of Foresters.

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Marcelle Gauvreau

Marcelle Gauvreau, Quebec scientist, botanist, educator, administrator, writer and journalist (born 28 February 1907 in Rimouski, QC; died 16 December 1968 in Montreal, QC). A botanist by profession, Marcelle Gauvreau made her mark as a teacher, writer, journalist, administrator and faithful collaborator of Frère Marie-Victorin (Conrad Kirouac). Through her books, articles, talks, the school she established, and her desire to promote public interest in plant life, she encouraged many Quebecers to learn about plants and to love nature in the 20th century.

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Ferdinand Larose

Ferdinand Alphonse Fortunat Larose, agronomist (born 1 April 1888 in Sarsfield, Ontario; died 29 January 1955 in Montreal, Quebec). Throughout his career, Ferdinand Larose focused on agriculture in the United Counties of Prescott and Russel in Eastern Ontario. He is best known for having created the vast Larose Forest in a part of the counties which had become arid after intensive deforestation in the 19th century. The agronomist was also a leader for Franco-Ontarian cultivators. He chaired several cultivator associations and promoted agricultural training for Franco-Ontarians.

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Peter Millman

Peter MacKenzie Millman, astronomer (born 10 August 1906 in Toronto, ON; died 11 December 1990 in Ottawa, ON). One of the 20th century’s leading experts on meteors, Peter Millman has been called “the father of Canadian meteoritics.”

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Martha Salcudean

Martha Eva Salcudean (née Abel), OC, OBC, professor of mechanical engineering (born 26 February 1934 in Cluj, Romania; died 17 July 2019 in British Columbia). Salcudean was a leading authority on computational fluid dynamics and heat transfer. In 1985, she was named chair of the department of mechanical engineering at the University of British Columbia. This made her the first female head of a Canadian university’s engineering department. Salcudean dedicated much of her academic career to forging research and development partnerships. She fostered collaboration between universities, government agencies and industry groups in sectors such as mining, pulp and paper and aeronautics.

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Andrew Weaver

Andrew John Weaver, OBC, FRSC, climate scientist, leader of the BC Green Party 2015–20 (born 16 November 1961 in Victoria, BC). Andrew Weaver is a leading climate change researcher who made historic gains for the Green Party of British Columbia in his second career as a politician. In 2013, he was elected the province’s first Green MLA. In 2017, he led the Greens to three seats. After the 2017 election, he engineered a power-sharing deal with the BC New Democratic Party and toppled the Liberal government of Christy Clark to help John Horgan become premier.

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Jean Cuthand Goodwill

Jean Cuthand Goodwill, OC, nurse, public servant and Indigenous health and education advocate (born 14 August 1928 on the Poundmaker Cree Nation, SK; died 25 August 1997 in Regina, SK). Cuthand Goodwill was one of the first Indigenous registered nurses in Canada. In 1974, she cofounded Indian and Inuit Nurses of Canada (now known as the Canadian Indigenous Nurses Association). She was a lifelong organizer, writer and educator who promoted First Nations health and culture.

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Sir Alexander Mackenzie (Explorer)

Sir Alexander Mackenzie, fur trader, explorer (born around 1764 near Stornoway, Scotland; died 12 March 1820 near Dunkeld, Scotland). Mackenzie was one of Canada’s greatest explorers. In two epic journeys for the North West Company in 1789 and 1793, he crossed the dense northern wilderness to reach the Arctic and Pacific Oceans. The first European to cross North America north of Mexico, he inspired later adventurers and traders, such as the famous Lewis and Clark expedition sponsored by the American military (1804–6). The Mackenzie River, named in his honour, symbolizes Mackenzie’s important place as a pioneer and fur trader in Canadian history.

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Elizabeth Lawrie Smellie

Elizabeth Lawrie Smellie, nurse (born 22 March 1884 in Port Arthur, ON; died 5 March 1968 in Toronto, ON). Elizabeth (Beth) Smellie wrote that she had been “occasionally addressed as Colonel, Doctor, Matron, Sister, or Miss Smellie” — each title revealing different aspects of her life and career. She served as a nursing sister during the First World War, rose through the ranks as a matron and then assistant to the matron-in-chief of the postwar army nursing service. She left the military to take public health courses, teach at the McGill University School for Graduate Nurses, and work for the Victorian Order of Nurses (VON) before becoming the VON’s chief superintendent. The Canadian Army asked Smellie to return as matron-in-chief of its nursing service for the Second World War, as well as organizer of a new army division, the Canadian Women’s Army Corps. (See also Nursing.)

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Har Gobind Khorana

Har Gobind Khorana, scientist (born 9 January 1922 in Raipur, India; died 9 November 2011 in Concord, Massachusetts). His mother was illiterate and his family impoverished. His first class was in the open on the edge of the Rajasthan Desert. Khorana's brilliance was obvious early and, with scholarships, he earned degrees in organic chemistry at Punjab University. He obtained a PhD at Liverpool (1948) and then spent three years studying proteins and nucleic acids at Cambridge. In spite of his ability, his race precluded him from appointment as a professor in Britain. In search of an outstanding young scientist, Gordon Shrum, a physicist from the University of British Columbia, hired Khorana to do organic chemistry at the British Columbia Research Council in Vancouver in 1952.

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Charles Victor Roman

Dr. Charles Victor Roman, surgeon, professor, author, editor, philosopher, civil rights activist (born 4 July 1864 in Williamsport, Pennsylvania; died 25 August 1934 in Nashville, Tennessee). Charles Roman was raised in DundasOntario, and was the first Black person to graduate from Hamilton Collegiate Institute in Hamilton, ON. After a tragic accident in his teenage years, he went on to establish himself as an internationally respected surgeon and educator; he also wrote and edited several books and periodicals and was frequently called upon as a keynote speaker. Roman used the Canada–US border as a gateway to opportunity both north and south of the line. He is an example of a true "African North American," one of many individuals of African descent who crossed and recrossed the border separating the two countries between 1850 and 1930.

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Jennie Trout

Jennie (Jenny) Kidd Trout, physician, teacher (born 21 April 1841 in Kelso, Scotland; died 10 November 1921 in Hollywood, California). Trout was the first female physician licensed to practice medicine in Canada. She received her licence from the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Ontario in 1875.

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Chalmers Jack Mackenzie

Chalmers Jack Mackenzie, engineer, research manager (b at St Stephen, NB 10 July 1888; d at Ottawa 26 Feb 1984). He was the single most important figure in the postwar growth of Canadian science.

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Armand Frappier

Armand Frappier, CC, physician, microbiologist (born 26 November 1904 in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, QC; died 17 December 1991 in Montréal, QC). Armand Frappier was a key figure in the fight against tuberculosis in Canada; he both produced the BCG (bacillus Calmette-Guérin) vaccine and advocated widespread vaccinations across the country. As founder and director of the Institut de microbiologie et d'hygiène de Montréal, he advanced medical research into infectious diseases and played an important role in the development of public health. (See also INRS-Armand-Frappier Santé Biotechnologie Research Centre.) He and his team produced a number of vaccines and other biological products (e.g., the anti-polio Salk vaccine, penicillin) and were responsible for freeze-drying blood serum for the armed forces during the Second World War. (See also Canada and the Development of the Polio Vaccine).

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Stanley Vollant

Stanley Vollant, CQ, Innu surgeon, professor and lecturer (born 2 April 1965 in Quebec City, Quebec). Vollant is the first Indigenous surgeon trained in Quebec. In 1996, he received a National Aboriginal Role Model Award from the Governor General of Canada. Vollant began Innu Meshkenu in 2010, a 6,000 km walk to promote the teachings of First Nations and to encourage Indigenous young people to pursue their dreams. In 2016, he founded the non-profit organization Puamun Meshkenu to inspire and support Indigenous peoples in their mental and physical health.

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Nadine Caron

Nadine Rena Caron, surgeon, researcher, mentor, educator, patient advocate, community leader (born 1970 in Kamloops, BC). Nadine Caron was the first female First Nations student to graduate from the University of British Columbia Faculty of Medicine. She was also the first female First Nations general surgeon in Canada. For many years, Caron has highlighted the needs and voices of northern, rural and Indigenous populations in Canada.