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Article

Frances Oldham Kelsey

​Frances Oldham Kelsey, CM, pharmacologist (born 24 July 1914 in Cobble Hill, BC; died 7 August 2015 in London, ON). As an employee of the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Kelsey blocked the sale of thalidomide in the United States. The drug, which had been widely prescribed in Europe and Canada, was later shown to cause severe birth defects in children whose mothers had taken the drug while pregnant. In recognition of her “exceptional judgment” and determination, Kelsey received the President’s Award for Distinguished Federal Civilian Service. Kelsey and her work have been widely lauded in the United States but are less known in Canada. She was made a Member of the Order of Canada shortly before her death.

Article

Julie Payette

Julie Payette, CC, CMM, COM, CQ, CD, astronaut, engineer, jet pilot, musician (born 20 October 1963 in Montréal, QC). Julie Payette is the first Canadian astronaut to board the International Space Station, which she went to twice (1999, 2009). She served as the chief astronaut for the Canadian Space Agency from 2000 to 2007. From 2013 to 2016, she was chief operating officer for the Montreal Science Centre and vice president of the Canada Lands Company. An accomplished scientific authority, musician and athlete, Payette is a board member of Own the Podium and a member of the Canadian Olympic Committee’s board of directors. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recommended Payette as Canada’s 29th Governor General. She served in the role from 2 October 2017 until 21 January 2021, when she resigned following allegations that she was abusive toward her staff.

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

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

Marion Alice Orr

Marion Alice Orr (née Powell). Pioneer pilot. (b. Jun 25, 1916 [?], Toronto, ON; d. April 4, 1995, Peterborough, ON). Marion Orr's birth date has been given variously as 1916, 1918 and 1920. She obfuscated sometimes on documents related to flying for fear that she would be grounded by her age.

Article

Edith Monture

Charlotte Edith Anderson Monture (often known simply as Edith Monture), Mohawk First World War veteran, registered nurse, (born 10 April 1890 on Six Nations reserve near Brantford, ON; died 3 April 1996 in Ohsweken, ON). Edith was the first Indigenous woman to become a registered nurse in Canada and to gain the right to vote in a Canadian federal election. She was also the first Indigenous woman from Canada to serve in the United States military. Edith broke barriers for Indigenous women in the armed forces and with regards to federal voting rights. A street (Edith Monture Avenue) and park (Edith Monture Park) are named after her in Brantford, Ontario.

Article

Maude Abbott

Maude Elizabeth Seymour Abbott, cardiac pathologist, physician, curator (born 18 March 1868 in St. Andrews East, QC; died 2 September 1940 in Montreal, QC). Maude Abbott is known as the author of The Atlas of Congenital Cardiac Disease (1936), a groundbreaking text in cardiac research. Though Abbott graduated in arts from McGill University (1890), she was barred from studying medicine at McGill because of her gender. Instead, she attended Bishop’s College (now Bishop’s University), earning a medical degree in 1894. As assistant curator of the McGill Medical Museum (1898), and curator (1901), she revolutionized the teaching of pathology by using the museum as an instructional tool. Abbott’s work paved the way for women in medicine and laid the foundation for modern heart surgery. (See also Women in STEM).

Article

Irma LeVasseur

Irma LeVasseur, MD, first French-Canadian female doctor and founder of the Hôpital Sainte-Justine in Montreal and the Hôpital de l’Enfant-Jésus in Québec City (born 20 January 1877 in Québec, QC; died 18 January 1964 in Québec, QC.) Dr. LeVasseur was one of the very few female doctors of her era and was a pioneer in pediatric medicine. She devoted her life to sick children, founding major institutions that continued her work after her death.

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.

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