The iPhone is American—everyone knows that. The Thermos was created in England. Golf comes from Scotland. The electric drill and the referee’s whistle come from Australia.
But what comes from Canada? Like its cuisine, not a lot of people around the world are familiar with Canadian inventions. Here are fifteen notable ones:
1. The paint roller
Painting any sized wall can be a nuisance, but it was only comparatively recently that it was achieved solely with a brush. In 1940, Torontonian Norman Breakey created the paint roller; it not only helped painters work quicker, but applied paint over large surfaces more evenly.
The United States deservedly gets credit for creating much of today’s technology and its associated products. But it was a University of Calgary graduate named James Gosling that developed the high-level programming language still used by web developers to this day.
3. The Caesar cocktail
Some critics feel the Caesar is a bit of a rip-off of the more popular Bloody Mary. In some ways it is, however since the Caesar has now gained popularity across Canada and America, Canadians like to claim it as their own. Another Calgarian, Walter Chell, came up with the idea of adding clam juice to the usual tomato juice-and-vodka mix to help compliment his Italian restaurant’s cuisine.
4. Baby trekkers
Anyone with small children will attest that transporting them is a big chore. Fed up with the usual baby strollers and other vehicles, Winnipeg mum Judy Pettersen created the first ‘baby knapsack’ that is now prevalent in homes from Japan to Ireland.
Once a key transportation device for a whole tribe of people and now a recreational water vehicle for many worldwide, the kayak is proudly Canadian. The northern Inuit tribes were the first to create the kayak, built from driftwood and whale bones and covered with seal skins; all materials native to the Canadian tundra.
6. Rust-fungus resistant wheat
It’s no secret how cold the Canadian landscape is. So it seems almost inevitable that Manitoba scientist Margaret Newton would create a wheat strain that is resistant to natural influences; in this case rust and fungus that can threaten wheat crops. It’s also important to note that Newton was the first ever PhD recipient in agricultural science.
7. The pacemaker
People are living longer now thanks to all kinds of medical and technological breakthroughs. One of those breakthroughs was created by Winnipeg’s Dr. John Hopps. It was a small device that sets the electrical pulses of people with defective heart rhythms. Later, this became known as the pacemaker and is now used for people suffering with heart problems everywhere.
8. Incandescent light bulbs
Whenever you turn your light on and hear the familiar burning filament inside, don’t think about Thomas Edison. Henry Wood and Mathew Evans of Toronto first patented the lightbulb in 1874. It was Edison that bought the patent and popularised the product that we know today.
9. Mosquito repellent
Mosquitoes are a nuisance in many countries, many people buy special sprays or creams to fend them off. The first was developed by Charles Coll of Nova Scotia and even has a brand, Muskol, named after him.
10. Five-pin bowling
While most bowling aficionados swear by ten-pin bowling only, five-pin is also popular and great for beginners. Torontonian Thomas Ryan created this bowling style at his own recreational club for students, who played it on their lunchbreaks.
11. Hockey masks
This might sound like a no-brainer since hockey was always popular in Canada, yet it was played for years under more unsafe conditions in other countries, like Finland and Norway. Goaltenders especially were susceptible to flying pucks hitting their faces causing severe injuries. Montreal Maroon goalie Clint Benedict wore one of earliest hockey masks in the 1930’s, but inventor Bill Burchmore created the first popularised model for Montreal Canadien Jacques Plante, commonly known as the ‘Plante Mask’. It’s evolved since then to become standard equipment, and was made infamous by the creepy Jason Voorhees in the Friday the 13th film series!
Jacques Bombardier’s company and namesake is well known today, especially in aircraft and transit vehicle industries. But the Quebec native first gained recognition for the snowmobile, another almost-necessary winter vehicle. For native Canadians, it’s like a motorcycle for the winter, but it’s also used for search and rescue operations in parts of the United States, Scandinavia, and mountainous parts of central Europe.
13. Trivial Pursuit
You might have enjoyed those fun nights with friends, asking questions with multiple choice answers such as ‘What’s the name of the most Northern Californian mountain range?’ or ‘Which famous actor directed and won the Academy Award for the film Reds?’ If so, thank Canadian journalists Chris Haney and Scott Abbott. It was their idea.
One Canada’s proudest moments. Charles Best and Frederick Banting explored diabetes and researched the effects of a lack of a hormone named ‘insulin’. They developed a method of obtaining outside insulin sources—i.e. from an animal’s fetal pancreas—for diabetics to inject into their own bodies. This led to a 1923 Nobel Prize they both shared, as well as prize money for themselves and their colleagues JJR MacLeod and James Collip.
15. The Canadarm
Another pride of Canadian scientific discovery. Although the Americans had already gone to the moon in 1969, space technology was still in its infancy. There were no instruments in place to deploy payloads or other materials from one spacecraft to the next. SPAR Aerospace was contracted out by NASA and by the early 1980’s, the Canadarm was in place and used extensively during future space missions to do just this.
This is only a short list of Canadian inventions. Other great ones include the military gas mask, the alkaline battery, Easy-Off oven cleaner, the electron microscope, and even the egg carton!
If this list has gotten you interested in Canada’s history and culture, check out our blog post on Canadian dishes. You can also learn many great facts about Canada by studying English in Toronto.