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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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Patent

A patent applies to an invention that is determined to be new, useful and inventive. A patent provides an inventor with the exclusive right to make, use or sell their invention for a certain number of years. When a patent expires, the invention becomes public property. (See also Intellectual Property; Inventors and Innovations.)

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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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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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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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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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Cardiac Pacemaker

In 1950, one of Canada’s greatest medical innovations was developed at the University of Toronto’s Banting Institute. Cardiac surgeon, Dr. Wilfred Bigelow and research fellow, Dr. John Carter Callaghan were trying to understand how hypothermia (see Cold-Weather Injuries) could slow the beating of an animal’s heart before surgery. They were also looking for a way to stimulate the heart when it faltered as it cooled. This largely unknown area of research could have tremendous applications for humans. The doctors partnered with Dr. John A. Hopps from the National Research Council of Canada, who created a portable artificial external pacemaker. It was designed to send electric pulses to the heart, which caused the heart to contract and pump blood to the body. The device was successfully tested on a dog in 1950. This landmark discovery paved the way for the use of implantable pacemakers in humans.

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Roland Galarneau

Roland Galarneau, CM, machinist and inventor (born 16 February 1922 in HullQuebec; died 22 May 2011 in Hull). In the late 1960s, Galarneau invented the Converto-Braille, a computerized printer capable of transcribing text into Braille at 100 words per minute. This was a landmark innovation for people with visual impairments, as it increased their access to textbooks and other written information. Galarneau developed faster versions of the Converto-Braille in the 1970s. The company he founded eventually adapted the machine into software for IBM computers in the 1980s. This software was a precursor of the Braille software used today.

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Olivia Poole

Susan Olivia Davis Poole, inventor (born 18 April 1889 in Devils Lake, North Dakota; died 10 October 1975 in Ganges, BC). Olivia Poole was raised on the Ojibwe White Earth Reservation in Minnesota. There, she was inspired by the traditional practice of using a bouncing cradleboard to soothe babies. In 1957, she patented her invention of the baby jumper, under the name Jolly Jumper, making her one of the first Indigenous women in Canada to patent and profit from an invention.

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Donald Lewes Hings

Donald Lewes Hings, MBE, CM, inventor, engineer and telecommunications pioneer (born 6 November 1907 in Leicester, United Kingdom; died 25 February 2004 in Burnaby, BC). Donald Hings contributed to the development of electronic and geophysical technology for more than 60 years. He was the originator of more than 55 patents in Canada and the United States, but he is perhaps best known for his invention of the radio frequency system commonly known as the “walkie-talkie.” The walkie-talkie was adopted by the armed forces of Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States and was credited with providing soldiers with a reliable means of battlefield communication and saving the lives of untold numbers of Allied soldiers during the Second World War. Hings’s groundbreaking work opened the door for many of the radio frequency and communication systems used in the present day. (See also Telecommunications.)

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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.