1801: The Métis people build Red River carts — carts constructed without the use of iron, and using only wood and animal pelts — for use in everyday life. They were pulled by horses and oxen but could also float.
1811: The popular apple variety McIntosh was discovered in Eastern Ontario by farmer John McIntosh. The first tree was bred and grafted to produce bushels of the fruit. By 1870, it was a favourite in both Canada and the US.
1833: Fisherman John Patch uses a two-blade, fan-shaped propeller to move his rowboat across the harbour in Yarmouth, NS. This effectively ended the age of sail.
John Turnbull of Saint John, NB, adds a spring-loaded, crank-operated wringer to a washing machine, making laundry day easier for homemakers everywhere (and thus creating the first home appliance!).
1846: The discovery of a coal-distilled substance called kerosene by Dr. Abraham Gesner in Nova Scotia makes for a safer, more stable way of providing light.
1853: Fredericton native Benjamin Tibbets figures out how to harness the wasted heated steam in engines to make a more efficient generator that used less fuel and allowed for more power.
1854: Inventor Charles Fenerty, after observing wasps chewing through wood fibre to make papery strips for their nests, realizes a similar process can be applied to groundwood pulp to make newsprint paper.
1857: The first oil well is dug in Bothwell, Ont., on the banks of the Thames River, by entrepreneur James Miller Williams.
Williams built the country’s first oil refinery the same year.
1868: Henry Taylor of Stanstead, QC, built the first automobile on the continent. It was billed as a horseless carriage and it ran on steam from a coal-fired broiler fitted on the back.
1874: Medical student Henry Woodward and hotelkeeper Mathew Evans fashion and patent the world’s first lightbulb. The patent was purchased and the design refined by Thomas Edison in 1879.
Alexander Graham Bell is granted the patent for the telephone. Bell may have been Scottish, but he acquired much of the knowledge he needed to invent the telephone while living in Brantford, Ont.
1880: The first hot-and-cold combined faucet is created by Thomas Campbell of Saint John, NB, by adjusting the capacity of the spout to accommodate the amount and pressure of water from both the hot and cold valves.
1883: James J. Wright, an operator with the Toronto street railway, proposes moving the power from under trolley cars to electric poles above them, in order to avoid the service stoppages caused by rain wreaking havoc on the underground electrical systems.
1885: The transcontinental railroad is completed, linking Eastern Canada to the Pacific coast.
The first experimental farm is created to take on the initiative of crop research. This first farm became the centrepoint of a system of farms devoted to agricultural science and development.
1886: Engineer Thomas Ahearn secretly develops a range oven using resistance coils to convert electricity into heat. Ten years later, the first commercial electric oven is installed, in the Windsor Hotel in Ottawa.
1891: Charles Saunders, a cereal specialist at the experimental farm cross-breeds wheat varieties to create Marquis wheat — a fast-growing strain that can accommodate Canada’s short growing season.
Inspired by a cake-decorating extruder, British Columbia baker-slash-inventor Theodore Witte adapts the premise to create the first caulking gun, the puttying tool we still know today.
1900: Reginald Fessenden, from East Bolton, QC., transmits his voice over the first wireless telephone. This is considered one of the pioneering moments of radio.
1900: The Brownie camera hits the market. The snapshot camera itself, developed by the Eastman Kodak Company, wasn’t invented in Canada, but it was named for characters created by Canadian writer and illustrator Palmer Cox.
1906: Montrealer Léo-Ernest Ouimet opens the Ouimetoscope, the first motion picture theatre in Canada.
1908: After cutting his hand trying to screw in the conventional Phillips screw of the day, Milton, Ont., salesman Peter Robertson creates the square-socket Robertson screw that could be screwed in faster, easier, and tighter.
1913: Originally called “the hookless fastener,” the zipper is invented by Gideon Sundback in St. Catharines, Ont., but it doesn’t catch on in popularity until World War II.
1914: Engineer and eventual cabinet minister Clarence Decatur Howe develops the rotary car dumper, a grain-handling vehicle that relied on gravity to empty its contents in just eight minutes.
William Buckley’s Toronto pharmacy releases Buckley’s, the horrible-tasting cough suppressant that is still on the market today. (The taste was initially described as “brisk.”)
1920: Robert Mawhinney of Saint John, N.B., outfits a truck with a dump box, a winch, and a crank handle. The winch lifted the front of the box, creating early dump truck technology.
1921: Dr. Frederick Banting and his assistant Charles Best discover insulin, used in the treatment of diabetes, in a University of Toronto laboratory, under the directorship of John McLeod. Banting and McLeod went on to win a Nobel Prize for their work.
Nanook of the North, a film produced by explorer and prospector Robert Flaherty, is released. The film, depicting the lives of an Inuk man named Nanook and his family in the Canadian Arctic, is considered to be the first feature-length documentary film.
1925: Edward Rogers Sr. develops the first commercially viable all-electric radio in Toronto. Radios were previously battery-powered; Rogers’s invention allowed people to plug their radios directly into electrical sockets.
1925: Plant pathologist Dr. Margaret Newton is given the task of eradicating grain rust — a fungus that destroyed 30 million bushels of wheat a year. When Dr. Newton retired two decades later, that number was zero.
1930: Dividing lines are painted on Ontario roads for the first time, before becoming a standard feature in transportation infrastructure across North America.
1931: Three Toronto pediatricians — Drs. Alan Brown, Fred Tisdall, and Theo Drake — develop Pablum, a nutrient-rich baby cereal initially created for malnourished babies and kids.
1933: The product we know as plexiglass appears on the market after the transparent polymer is refined and patented by graduate student William Chalmers at McGill University.
1935: Karl Lorch invents the snowplane, a lightweight cabin structure on three skis powered by an old aircraft engine, as a way to combat the isolation of prairie winters.
1939: Aeronautical engineer Elsie MacGill spearheads the mass production of the Hawker Hurricane aircraft, resulting in a streamlined manufacturing process that was soon adopted worldwide.
1939: Norman Breakey creates the first paint roller for quick, more even application of paint. It’s too bad the Torontonian didn’t patent his invention, because knock-offs soon sprung up everywhere.
1940: The electron microscope, which uses a beam of electrons for magnification up to 10,000,000 times (light microscopes are around 2,000 times), is created by U of T Ph.D. students James Hillier and Albert Prebus. It is still used in labs around the world.
1950: Wilfred Bigelow discovers that lowering a patient’s core body temperature can allow surgeons longer, safer access to the heart for surgical intervention. The first open-heart surgery, using Dr. Bigelow’s theory, was performed three years later.
1950: The first prototype of the roto thresh combine harvester is developed by William and Frederick Streich in Manitoba.
The combine uses centrifugal force to reap and separate the grain from chaff and straw.
1950s: Joseph-Armand Bombardier debuts small snowmobiles meant for one or two people. He intended to call these new recreational vehicles Ski-Dogs, but when a typo was made publicly — Ski-Doo — Bombardier embraced the error. A decade
later, 8,500 Ski-Doos were being sold annually.
1951: Engineer John Hopps at Canada’s National Research Council develops the forerunner to the pacemaker.
1951: Drs. Sylvia Fedoruk and Harold Johns at the University of Saskatchewan use gamma radiation from cobalt to successfully treat malignant tumours in patients.
1952: Farmers Emerson and Kenneth Summach set up a shop to manufacture the flexi-coil air seeder, which helped to seed fields more effectively in many ways. It’s a machine that’s still in use around the world today.
U of T engineer Lewis Urry is asked by his bosses at the Canadian National Carbon Company to extend the longevity of the zinc-carbon battery. Urry uses powdered zinc to invent the alkaline battery we know so well.
1960s: The study of technology and communications becomes a valid field of education with the help of University of Toronto English professor Marshall McLuhan, who held fast to the idea that individual technologies have shaped our world.
1961: Physician James Till and physicist Ernest McCulloch accidentally develop stem cells, which are now used in treatment for a range of medical issues, from spinal cord injuries to cancer and Alzheimer’s.
1965: Four undergrad students from the University of Waterloo build a FORTRAN compiler called WATFOR. The compiler was faster and more accurate at error diagnostics, making it a valuable tool for programmers around the world.
1966: A new breed of potato — yellow-fleshed and eye-free, with smooth skin, and hardy enough to grow in Canada’s climate — is released. The variety named the Yukon Gold, took University of Guelph research scientist Gary Johnston two decades to perfect.
1967: Childproof caps for medication are introduced, invented by Windsor’s Dr. Henri Breault. The “palm-n-turn” technology helped to cut the accidental incidents of poisoning in Ontario by medication by 90 percent. The technology was eventually made mandatory across the country.
1969: Willard Boyle, an employee at Bell Laboratories in Nova Scotia, comes up with the initial, rudimentary theory for digital photography in a single afternoon.
1970: When the sorghum decorticator is invented by Canadian engineers, it changes the game for farmers in India and Africa. This small, portable machine hulls staple crops quickly, making it possible for farmers to feed themselves and their communities.
1971: James E. Guillet invents UV biodegradable plastic that breaks down 50 times faster than the plastic of the day, with the hope of lessening the impact of certain polymers on the planet.
1971: A new prosthetic hand, the first to incorporate electronic and mechanical elements to help the user perform tasks like turning a doorknob or picking up a cup, is created by Canadian scientist Helmut Lucas.
1971: IMAX is invented, created by five experimental filmmakers in Toronto, allowing for bigger,
wider and clearer movies than ever before.
1974: Created from cross-breeding rapeseed plants, canola is created by Baldur Stefansson and Keith Downey at the University of Manitoba. Canola oil is now one of the most popular edible oils.
1975: Nortel Networks in Mississauga, Ont.,
develops the digital telephone switch, with the ability to service up to 100,000 lines. It became the foundation for telephone systems around the globe.
1981: The Canadarm is deployed. Designed by a team of Canadian engineers, this piece of equipment is a staple of NASA’s US shuttle program, used to maintain equipment, deploy and capture satellites, and more.
1982: The meningitis vaccine, developed by Ottawa-based medical research Dr. Harold Jennings and his team, is finalized.
1982: Dr. Elaine Thompson of Winnipeg takes discarded rubber tires and creates a new emulsified rubber asphalt for seal-coating roads.
1982: Nimish Mehta and members of the Input Research Group at U of T make the first multi-touch screen. It launched research and design that lead to touchscreen devices.
1983: Kitchener, Ont., sanitation worker Nyle Ludolph champions the first municipal curbside recycling program, including the blue box we still use today.
1984: Canadian cancer researcher Dr. Tak Wah Mak discovers T-cell receptors — a molecule found on the surface of T-cells that plays a major role in the immune system. This discovery became a major breakthrough in cancer immunology.
Archie, the world’s first search engine (move over, Yahoo and Google), is created at McGill University.
1993: Professor Dr. Abdullah Kirumira at Acadia University in Nova Scotia develops the world’s first rapid HIV test.
1996: Mike Lazaridis, founder of Research in Motion (RIM), unveils the prototype of the Blackberry. It was the first mobile phone device that could also sync to an email account.
2004: The National Research Council combines technologies to create 3D scanning, for precise, realistic visualizations.
2005: Calgary entrepreneur Clayton Bear harnesses the power of running water with his hydrokinetic turbine. The lightweight, easy-to-assemble turbine means that even remote communities can get easy access to affordable energy.
2011: Rinderpest, a virus that strikes cows, sheep, pigs, and other split-hoof animals, is considered stamped out thanks to a vaccine created by a group of Canadian scientists and veterinarians in Grosse Île, QC.
2013: Trauma specialist and retired Canadian Forces surgeon develops the iTClamp — an easy-to-use device that closes a wound and limits blood loss in seconds.
In a chemistry lab helmed by Professor Geoffrey Ozin at the University of Toronto, new nanotechnology using light photons is created to prevent bill counterfeiting.