Explore Canada’s most impactful innovations from the most recent to oldest discoveries.
Although the first telephone was built in the United States, Alexander Graham Bell claims to have invented the device in Brantford, Ontario. That's also where the first long-distant phone call was made in 1876, to Paris, Ontario.
On July 24, 1874, Henry Woodward and Mathew Evans patented an electric lightbulb in Toronto, Ontario. It was made with a glass tube filled with a carbon filament and nitrogen gas. Unfortunately, the pair didn’t have the money to produce the lightbulbs commercially, and sold their patent to Thomas Edison in 1879.
While he didn’t invent the concept of standardized time, Sir Sandford Fleming is considered “the father of international standard time” for championing the cause. Fleming was responsible for North American railways adopting standardized time in 1883, and helped convene the International Prime Meridian Conference, where 25 nations from around the world were convinced to adopt international standard time.
Marcellus Gilmore Edson first patented peanut paste in Montreal, Quebec on October 21, 1884. The process involved grinding skinned peanuts on a hot surface, then letting the resulting cream-like substance cool until it was the consistency of butter. The paste was to be mixed with sugar and used for candy.
Dr. William Saunders first bred Marquis wheat in 1904 as an alternative to the then-prevalent red fife strain, which ripened too late in the season for the Canadian climate. The marquis strain became famous for its high yield and early ripening, and is considered to be “the greatest practical triumph of Canadian agriculture”.
Robert William Boyle of Carbonear, Newfoundland collaborated with French scientists during the First World War to invent sonar, a method of detecting objects through sound waves. The method was initially invented to discover underwater hazards like submarines, but has many other uses today, such as fishing.
Dr. Frederick Banting and his team of researchers at the University of Toronto saved and improved the lives of diabetics worldwide when they announced the discovery of insulin, the hormone produced by the pancreas to regulate blood sugar. Banting and his supervisor, John James Rickard Macleod, won the Nobel Prize the following year.
The first snowmobile was patented June 29, 1937 by Joseph Armand Bombardier in Quebec. The original snowmobile had seven seats, and was targeted at doctors, ambulance drivers, and priests living in remote areas. Bombardier later developed a series of snowmobiles to be used in the Second World War.
The first practical electron microscope was first built at the University of Toronto in 1938 by two graduate students, James Hillier and Albert Prebus. The microscope was able to magnify 7000 times, an incredible feat compared to other microscopes at the time that had magnification of 2000 times.
While there have been several individuals who claim to have invented the walkie-talkie, top science and technology universities credit the invention to Toronto-born Alfred Gross. Gross patented the walkie-talkie in 1938, a device he had been working on since age 12.
Hamilton-born George Johan Klein invented the electric wheelchair shortly after the Second World War. The chair was designed to assist veterans who suffered serious injuries in the war, and continues to help people with disabilities regain their independence to this day.
Instant replay was invented by George Retzlaff in 1955, where it was used to replay a goal during CBC’s Hockey Night In Canada. Retzlaff used kinescopic recording, which involved filming the initial broadcast with a camera and airing the new recording, to achieve the instant replay.
Quebec designer Louise Poirier created the Wonderbra as it’s known today in 1963. While the company Wonderbra had been around since 1939, and bras even longer than that, the Dream Lift model 1300 was the world’s first push-up bra and the foundation for modern lingerie.
Following Expo 67 in Montreal, IMAX inventors Graeme Ferguson, Roman Koritor, William Shaw, and Robert Kerr invented a camera system capable of filming high-resolution images and projecting onto large screens. The first IMAX film, Tiger Child, debuted three years later in Osaka, Japan.
Canola, a type of rapeseed with improved nutritional value, was developed by plant breeders in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. While traditional rapeseed contains acids that can taste unpleasant or be damaging to animals and humans, canola was bred to remove undesirable traits, and now produces some of the highest-quality oil in the world.
Canada’s most notable robotic achievement, Canadarm, was developed by the National Research Council of Canada. The Canadarm was signed over to NASA in 1981, and traveled to space later that year. It was used by NASA for 30 years in several different missions, including the construction of the International Space Station.
The 56k modem, which allowed for a 66% increase in download speed compared to previous modems, was invented by Toronto-born Brent Townshend in 1996. The 56k modem was able to keep internet speed more consistent than any other modem at that time, and has now become synonymous with dial-up internet.
The original BlackBerry, released in 1999 by Research In Motion, was a pager capable of email. Only three years later, BlackBerry developed the first smartphone, five years before the original iPhone was released.
The ZENN (Zero Emission No Noise) is a silent, environmentally-friendly electric car invented in 2006. While the car has a maximum speed of 25 miles per hour and a range of 35 miles, it serves as an excellent reference point for today’s electric vehicle.