Top 10 Canadian Inventions

“November 1995 – Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield during Russian Mir Space Station operations” / NASA


Canadarm and Canadarm 2

One of the defining moments in Canadian popular culture and in recent history was the viral Youtube video of Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield doing a cover of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Of Hadfield’s many great achievements during his time in the ISS was connecting the Canadarm2 to the International Space Station in 2001. Canadarm2 is the aptly named second version of the original Canadarm which is “Canada’s most famous robotic and technological achievement” according to the Canadian Space Agency’s government webpage. The Canadarm and Canadarm2 are massive achievements in bringing Canada into the international stage as a country with talents to be shared.


The Insulin extraction and purification process

The University of Toronto is a prestigious institution which has made many critical scientific breakthroughs and discoveries and produced many great thinkers in every discipline of study. Though we as Canadians often claim the invention/discovery of insulin by researchers at the University of Toronto, this piece of historical data is contested internationally and it would be unfair for us to not acknowledge that all great works of invention and science are an international effort. In recognizing this, we can celebrate the fine work of four Canadian scientists at the University of Toronto: Dr. Frederick Banting, John J.R. Macleod, Charles Best, and James Collip who worked quickly and tirelessly to uncover the missing pancreatic secretion which would prevent diabetes — insulin in 1921 allowing for the treatment of many who prior to this discovery, were subjected to fatal diagnoses.



Avro Arrow

One of the most fascinating inventions in Canadian history is the mysterious Avro Arrow. The plane itself, CF-105, was “an advanced, supersonic, twin engined, all-weather interceptor jet aircraft developed by A.V. Roe of Canada” in 1949 according to The Canadian Encyclopedia. The jet was top of its class and could have very well been “the world’s fastest and most advanced interceptor” but the Canadian government at the time slowed production and eventually cancelled the project. A.V. Roe’s 14,000 employees had to be fired and many engineers and scientists left Canada for the U.S. after the government destroyed all records and prototypes to be destroyed for reasons still unclear to this day. What is clear, however, is that in the generations since, Canadians  have been captivated by this strange story.



Donald L. Hings was a Canadian inventor in the early to mid 20th Century. He is most famous for his tremendously well known invention, the two-way field radio, also known as wireless sets, or as we know them today, Walkie-talkies. Hings invented these now widely popular devices in 1937 to be used by bush pilots to fly between mining sites in the far Northern regions of the country. They gained popularity during World War II and eventually went through multiple stages of development, ending up the way we know them today as important military devices and toys for kids.


Key frame animation

Two scientists working for the National Research Council of Canada, Nestor Burtnyk and Marceli Wein, studied at McGill University and began work on computer imaging in the late 1960s. After a 1969 presentation from a Disney animator discussing the creation of cartoons the men had created the first key frame animation package in 1970 which allowed animators to draw keyframes from a sequence, instead of every frame. As a result, a computer program would fill in the rest of the movement.


1997: The world’s first fully microprocessor-controlled leg prosthesis system, the C-Leg /


The  C-Leg

Another great example of Canadian inventiveness is the C-Leg, introduced in 1999, which was the first microprocessor-controlled leg prosthesis. This incredible piece of engineering was invented by Canadian Kelly James who worked with German company Otto Bock HealthCare to craft a prosthetic leg with hydraulics, a microprocessor and electronic sensors so that it works just like walking.


The Walter Callow Wheelchair Bus

The story of Canadian hero Walter Callow is in inspiring tale for all, and an especially proud one for Canadians. After an early start with a small business, Callow joined the Canadian Royal Flying Corps but during training he crashed in 1917 which caused a severe back injury which, in the late 1930s, confined him to a hospital, where he also went blind. He remained sharp however and devoted his time to enhancing the lives of the physically disabled and lead to the invention of the Walter Callow Wheelchair Bus, a vehicle that was custom made to transport people in wheelchairs. He then made a service out of it and took people who were unable to go, see and do things on their own out to an eclectic assortment of events such as picnics, football games and theatre performances.


Lew Urry “the father of alkaline” / (2011)


The modern alkaline dry battery

Unless it’s plugged into a wall, the majority of devices we interact with on a day-to-day basis are battery-powered. Though our smart phones, cameras and portable gaming systems have moved beyond them, all of these and more were powered by alkaline dry batteries until recently and most electronic children’s toys, and common household remotes still use them. This feat of engineering was the product of University of Toronto alumni Lew Urry who worked with Thomas Edison’s first prototypes of alkaline batteries in effort to improve the then used carbon-zinc battery. His work eventually led to the creation of the modern alkaline dry battery, the Energizer.



Canadians have a long history of sport and it spans far longer than confederation with the Indigenous invention of Lacrosse, but this list, which focuses on the past 150 years of confederation acknowledges this great feat but looks instead at basketball. In 1891 Dr. James Naismith, a physical education teacher invented the sport by nailing peach baskets as the end of the gymnasium in the school where he worked challenging two teams against each other to put the ball in the other team’s basket. Unfortunately, this first attempt ended in an all out brawl, which led Naismith to set out to codify rules to make basketball a clean game.


The Bloody Caesar

Like sport, Canadians have had their fair share of invention and ingenuity in the field of food and drink. Such as the peanut butter cup, poutine and instant mashed potatoes. But I think our greatest consumable invention comes not from the world of culinary arts, but instead from mixology. Any list of Canadian inventions would be a hollow shell of a list if they did not mention the deliciously spicy, wildly exciting, bloody red beverage that often has a bunch of veggies in it: the Bloody Caesar. The famous beverage was invented by Walter Chell in Calgary’s Westin Hotel when he was tasked with the creation of an entirely new beverage for the opening of a new Italian restaurant in the hotel. The glorious result is the now internationally revered Bloody Caesar. CBC News recommends this as the best recipe:

One ounce of vodka.

Two dashes of hot sauce.

Three dashes of salt, pepper.

Four dashes of Worcestershire sauce.

Top it up with Clamato juice.


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