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Article

Elsie MacGill

Elizabeth (Elsie) Muriel Gregory MacGill, OC, aeronautical engineer, feminist (born 27 March 1905 in Vancouver, BC; died 4 November 1980 in Cambridge, Massachusetts). Elsie MacGill was the first woman to earn a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering (1929). She was also the first practising Canadian woman engineer. In 1938, she became chief aeronautical engineer of Canadian Car & Foundry (Can Car). There, she headed the Canadian production of Hawker Hurricane fighter planes during the Second World War. An active feminist, MacGill was national president of the Canadian Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs (1962–64). She was also a member of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada (1967–70).

Key Facts
Born 27 March 1905, died 4 November 1980
First woman aeronautical engineer and aircraft designer
Key Canadian feminist
Oversaw production of fighter planes during WWII  
Nicknamed “Queen of the Hurricanes”

Article

Brenda Milner

Brenda Atkinson Milner (née Langford), CC, GOQ, FRSC, FRS, neuropsychologist (born 15 July 1918 in Manchester, England). Dr. Milner pioneered the field of neuropsychology, combining neurology and psychology. Most notably, she discovered that the part of the brain called the medial temporal lobe (which includes the hippocampus) is critical for the forming of long-term memories. Milner’s later work revealed that the learning of skills involving the combination of vision and movement is not part of the medial temporal lobe system. These discoveries proved that there are different forms of memory in different brain regions. Through her observation of patients, Milner changed forever our understanding of the brain’s learning and memory mechanisms.

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

Article

Henry George Thode

Henry George Thode, scientist, university administrator (b at Dundurn, Sask 10 Sept 1910; d 22 Mar 1997). He graduated from the University of Saskatchewan, earned his doctorate from Chicago in 1934 and worked in the labs of Nobel winner Harold Urey at Columbia before joining McMaster in 1939.

Article

Cecilia Krieger

Cypra Cecilia Krieger, mathematician, professor (born 9 April 1894 in Jasło, Galicia [Poland]; died 17 August 1974 in Toronto, ON). Krieger was the first woman to receive a doctorate in mathematics from a Canadian university (the University of Toronto) and only the third person to be awarded a mathematics doctorate in Canada. She taught mathematics and physics at the University of Toronto for over 30 years. Krieger is best known for her English translation of noted mathematical texts Introduction to General Typology and General Typology.

Article

Laurent Duvernay-Tardif

Laurent “Dr. Kill” Duvernay-Tardif, CQ, football player, doctor (born 11 February 1991 in Saint-Jean-Baptiste, QC). Laurent Duvernay-Tardif is an offensive lineman with the New York Jets of the National Football League (NFL). He was the 10th player ever drafted into the NFL from Canadian college and university football, and is the first Quebec-born football player to win a Super Bowl championship. Duvernay-Tardif is also the first active NFL player to become a doctor. He opted out of the 2020 season to work at a Montreal long-term care facility during the COVID-19 pandemic. He was made a Chevalier of the Ordre national du Québec in 2019. In 2020, he was named a Sportsperson of the Year by Sports Illustrated, as well as co-winner (with soccer player Alphonso Davies) of the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada’s athlete of the year. Duvernay-Tardif was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame in 2021.

Article

Biruté Galdikas

Biruté Marija Filomena Galdikas, OC, primatologist, conservationist, educator (born 10 May 1946 in Wiesbaden, Germany). Galdikas is the world’s leading authority on orangutans. She has studied them in Indonesian Borneo since 1971. She is also involved in conservation and rehabilitation efforts for orangutans. Galdikas forms part of a trio of primatologists nicknamed the “Trimates,” along with Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey. Galdikas spends part of the year in Indonesia and teaches half time at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver.

Article

Brock Chisholm

George Brock Chisholm, CC, CBE, ED, psychiatrist, medical administrator, soldier (born 18 May 1896 in Oakville, ON; died 4 February 1971 in Victoria, BC). Brock Chisholm earned  honours for courageous service in the First World War, including a Military Cross (MC) and Bar. He obtained his MD from the University of Toronto in 1924 and became an influential psychiatrist following training at Yale University. He introduced mental health as a component of the recruitment and management of the Canadian Army during the Second World War. He directed the army’s medical services, served in the federal government as deputy minister of health, and became the founding director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO). His vocal attacks on methods of indoctrinating children with societal myths made him a controversial public figure. He was an often provocative advocate of world peace and mental health.

Article

Charles Lightfoot Roman

Charles Lightfoot Roman, MD, CM, surgeon, author, researcher, lecturer (born 19 May 1889 in Port Elgin, ON; died 8 June 1961 in Valleyfield, QC). Charles Lightfoot Roman was one of the first Black Canadians to graduate from McGill University’s Faculty of Medicine and became a recognized expert in industrial medicine. He was also one of the first Black Canadians to enlist for service in the First World War and was the only known Black person to serve with the Canadian General Hospital No. 3 (McGill). Lightfoot Roman was also likely the first Black Grand Master of a traditional Masonic lodge.

Article

Walter Kohn

Walter Kohn, theoretical physicist, professor, Nobel laureate in chemistry (born 9 March 1923 in Vienna, Austria; died 19 April 2016, Santa Barbara, United States). A refugee in England at the outbreak of the Second World War, Kohn was arrested in 1940 as an “enemy alien” and sent to Canada, where he was held in detention camps until 1942 (see Canada and the Holocaust). After his release, he studied mathematics and physics at the University of Toronto and Harvard University. He taught for many years at the Carnegie Institute of Technology and later at the University of California, San Diego and was the founding director of the Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Kohn was at the forefront of solid-state physics and quantum chemistry during his scientific career. For his work on “density functional theory” he was named co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1998.

Article

Elijah McCoy

Elijah McCoy, engineer, inventor (born 2 May 1843 or 1844 in Colchester, Canada West; died 10 October 1929 in Wayne County, Michigan.) McCoy was an African-Canadian mechanical engineer and inventor best known for his groundbreaking innovations in industrial lubrication.

List

30 Scientists

​To celebrate its 30th anniversary, The Canadian Encyclopedia created 30 lists of 30 things that make us proud to be Canadian, from famous people and historic events, to iconic foods and influential artists.

Article

Louis Deveau

Louis Edouard Deveau, O.C., O.N.S, P.ENG, L.L.D. (Hon.), businessman and advocate (born 13 October 1931 in Salmon River, Digby County, NS). Deveau is the founder of Acadian Seaplants Limited, a company that specializes in the cultivation, manufacturing and processing of seaweeds for plant, animal and human use. (See also Aquaculture; Biotechnology.) Deveau became a leading figure in the modern seaweed industry and is recognized for promoting research and sustainable development in the field. The recipient of numerous awards and honours, Deveau is also recognized for his lifelong efforts to support and promote Acadian culture and French language education in Nova Scotia (see Acadian French; French Language in Canada).

Article

Fossmobile

The Fossmobile was invented by George Foote Foss in 1897. It is the first Canadian example of an automobile built with an internal combustion engine. While the Fossmobile was never mass-produced for the Canadian automotive market (see automotive industry), it is an example of ingenuity and innovation. A tribute/replica of the Fossmobile was unveiled at an automobile club in Burlington, Ontario in 2022.

Article

Theodore Drake

Theodore George Gustavus Harwood Drake, physician, historian, collector (born 16 September 1891 in Webbwood, ON; died 28 October 1959 in Toronto, ON). Drake is perhaps best known for his contributions towards the development of the infant cereal, Pablum.

Article

Wilfred Bigelow

Wilfred Gordon Bigelow, OC, surgeon (born 18 June 1913 in Brandon, MB; died 27 March 2005 in Toronto, ON). Dr. Bigelow's special contribution to surgery of the heart was the use of hypothermia to slow tissue metabolism and protect the heart and brain from damage (see Cold Weather Injuries). His research on hypothermia also led to him to co-develop the portable artificial external cardiac pacemaker in 1950. This medical innovation contributed to the development of implantable cardiac pacemakers.

Article

Onye Nnorom

Onyenyechukwu (Onye) Nnorom, family physician, specialist in public health and preventive medicine (born 27 February 1981 in Montreal, Quebec). Nnorom is the associate director of the residency program in public health and preventive medicine at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health. She also leads the Black health curriculum at the university’s medical school. Her work addresses the health inequities that racialized and immigrant communities face.

Article

Frances Gertrude McGill

Frances Gertrude McGill, teacher, bacteriologist, forensic pathologist (born 18 November 1882 in Minnedosa, MB; died 21 January 1959 in Winnipeg). McGill was Canada’s first female forensic pathologist and a pioneer in the field. She assisted police in solving numerous difficult criminal cases and unusual deaths, earning the nickname “the Sherlock Holmes of Saskatchewan.” She is often regarded as the first female member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). Her personal motto is said to have been “Think like a man, act like a lady and work like a dog.”