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Canadian Technological Inventions and Innovations

Technology is understood as the manipulation of the physical world to achieve human goals. Numerous people in Canada have innovated or invented new technologies in response to human needs and desires. These inventions and innovations have changed the way people work, communicate and understand the world around them. Below is a list of some of the technological inventions and innovations developed in Canada. Do you recognize any of these gadgets?

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Marcellus Gilmore Edson

Marcellus Gilmore Edson, chemist, pharmacist (born 7 February 1849 in Bedford, QC; died 6 March 1940 in Montreal, QC). In 1884, Edson received a patent for the manufacture of a peanut paste, which he named “peanut-candy.” Edson’s patent for peanut-candy has been recognized as a forerunner to the commercially available peanut butter or spread. (See also Legume; Oilseed Crops.)

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John A. Hopps

John Alexander (Jack) Hopps, OC, inventor, research scientist (born 21 May 1919 in Winnipeg, MB; died 24 November 1998 in Ottawa, ON). Early in his lengthy career at the National Research Council of Canada (NRC), Hopps was recruited to design a cardiac pacemaker with a team of scientists at the Banting Institute in Toronto. His invention of a portable artificial external pacemaker, designed at the NRC, was successfully tested on a dog in 1950. The creation of the device was a significant medical milestone that laid the groundwork for implantable pacemakers in humans.

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AES-90

The AES-90 word processor was an innovation released by the Montreal-based technology company Automatic Electronic Systems Inc. in 1972. The new machine was a pioneer within its generation that not only revolutionized office automation, but also set the trend for the design of word processors around the world.

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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.

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Snowshoes

Snowshoes are footwear that help to distribute the weight of a person while they walk over deep snow, preventing them from sinking too far into the snow with every step. In the past, Indigenous peoples used snowshoes for winter travel in Canada, outside the Pacific and Arctic coasts. Snowshoeing has since become a popular Canadian pastime, enjoyed by hikers and sportspeople.

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Caesar Cocktail

The Caesar, also known as the Bloody Caesar, is considered Canada’s national cocktail. The key ingredients are vodka, clam juice, tomato juice, spices and Worcestershire sauce. It is typically served in a highball glass rimmed with celery salt and garnished with a celery stalk, olives and lime. Food and beverage worker Walter Chell invented the Caesar in Calgary, Alberta, in 1969. Since then, the drink’s popularity and origin have made it a national cultural icon. Canadians drink more than 400 million Caesars annually. However, it has not achieved significant reach beyond Canada.  

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Woodward and Evans Light Bulb

In 1874, Canadians Henry Woodward and Mathew Evans patented a design for an incandescent light bulb. Their invention preceded that of American Thomas Edison by several years. In fact, the second patent (issued in 1876 in the United States) was among those that Edison bought as he refined the technology to create a longer-lasting bulb. Woodward and Evans’s early work on the light bulb in Toronto has gone largely unrecognized. It was nevertheless an important development in the invention of electric lighting.

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Pablum

Pablum is a multi-grain processed cereal developed as a nutritious, precooked digestible food for infants. The cereal was first developed at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto in 1930 by pediatric doctors Theodore Drake and Frederick Tisdall under the supervision of physician-in-chief Alan Brown. Pablum became commercially available in 1934 through an agreement with the Mead Johnson & Company and was used as a brand name through the early 21st century.

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Henri J. Breault

Henri Joseph Breault, medical doctor, anti-poisoning advocate (born 4 March 1909 in Tecumseh, ON; died 5 September 1983 in Exeter, ON). Breault is known for spearheading a national campaign to prevent accidental childhood poisonings. He advocated for the development of the Palm-N-Turn, a safety cap that drastically reduced child deaths due to poisoning in Canada and around the world.

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Bigelow, Callaghan and Hopps Unveil the Portable Artificial External Pacemaker

Cardiac surgeon Dr. Wilfred Bigelow, research fellow Dr. John Carter Callaghan, and Dr. John A. Hopps of the National Research Council of Canada delivered their findings on their newly invented portable artificial external pacemaker to the American College of Surgeons in Boston. The device was designed to send electric pulses to the heart, causing the heart to contract and pump blood to the body. It marked a significant medical milestone and laid the groundwork for implantable pacemakers.

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TurboTrain

The United Aircraft Corporation’s TurboTrain (known in Canada as the CN Turbo or VIA Rail TurboTrain) was an early high-speed passenger train that operated in Canada, from 1968 to 1982. The TurboTrain was powered by a gas turbine engine and could attain a maximum speed of over 270 km/h, though it normally never exceeded 150 km/h. The TurboTrain operated on the MontrealToronto route, and under optimal conditions was supposed to complete the trip in less than four hours, though it often took about four and a half hours. Meant to revolutionize train travel in Canada, the TurboTrain suffered from technical problems in its first years of service and declining interest from travellers.

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Cradleboard

Historically, the cradleboard (or cradle board), was used by various Indigenous peoples to protect and carry babies. Securely bound to a thin rectangular board, a baby could be carried on its mother's back or put in a safe location while she performed her daily routine. In some communities, Indigenous peoples still use cradleboards.

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Guglielmo Marconi

Guglielmo Giovanni Maria Marconi, electrical engineer, inventor and businessman (born 25 April 1874 in Bologna, Italy; died 20 July 1937 in Rome, Italy). Marconi’s early experiments in wireless telegraphy demonstrated the potential of long-range radio communication. He is generally considered the inventor of the radio. Marconi’s first reputed reception of a transatlantic radio signal occurred at Signal Hill in St. John’s, Newfoundland, in 1901. The following year, he built a wireless transmission station in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia. Half of the 1909 Nobel Prize in Physics went to Marconi for his work in wireless telegraphy.

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