Story Ideas

10 things you need to know about... great Canadian inventions

From the snow blower to the game of basketball, Canadians have been responsible for some of the world’s most noteworthy inventions.

09 February 2016

Suggested tweet: 10 inventions you may not have known were created by Canadians: #explorecanada

Did you know that ice hockey is believed to have originated in England? While Canadians may not have invented the sport they love so dearly, we are responsible for one of its important safety developments, as well as countless other globally significant inventions. Have a look at 10 important Canadian inventions that might just surprise you:

1. The goalie mask. Although he didn’t technically invent the goalie mask, legendary Montréal Canadiens goaltender Jacques Plante was the first professional puck stopper to use one. He started wearing a crude fiberglass mask after taking a puck to the face during a 1959 game.

2. Insulin. Before Canadian physician Dr. Frederick Banting invented insulin injections in 1921, diabetes was almost always a fatal disease. Banting’s breakthrough dramatically prolonged the lives of diabetes patients and won him the Nobel Prize in Medicine.
3. The snow blower. Who else but a Canadian could be responsible for this upgrade on the humble snow shovel? This is the Great White North, after all. Montréal’s Arthur Sicard introduced the snow blower to the world in 1925, saving generations of Canadians from back pain.

4. Basketball. In 1891, James Naismith, a Canadian-born physical education instructor, took a soccer ball and a peach basket into a gym in Springfield, Massachusetts, and invented the game of basketball. He later swapped out the basket for iron hoops and a hammock-style basket.

5. Radio broadcasting. In December of 1900, Canadian Reginald Aubrey Fessenden became the first person to successfully transmit a human voice without wires when he spoke the words “one - two - three - four, is it snowing where you are, Mr. Thiessen?” Mr. Thiessen, a mile away, confirmed that it was. This, the first audio radio transmission, was the true precursor to radio broadcasting as we know it.

6. Peanut butter. School lunches were never quite the same after Montréal native Marcellus Gilmore Edson patented peanut paste in 1884. Today, the average American child will have consumed nearly 1,500 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches before they graduate from high school.  

7. The telephone. When Alexander Graham Bell spoke the immortal words, “Mr. Watson, come here I want to see you,” in 1876, he uttered the first spoken sentence ever transmitted via electricity. His invention quickly became the talk of the town. Many people don’t know that Bell moved to Canada at age 23, and would spend much of his life in the country, specifically in Nova Scotia where we would eventually pass away at age 75.

8. Five-pin bowling. Responding to customers who complained that the 10-pin game was too exhausting, Toronto Bowling Club owner Thomas F. Ryan invented a five-pin variation in 1909, which to this day is played only in Canada.

9. Standard time. Sir Sandford Fleming, another Scottish-born Canadian engineer and inventor, first proposed a single 24-hour clock for the entire world after he missed a train in Ireland in 1876. By 1929 all of the major countries of the world had accepted Fleming’s idea of time zones.

10. The electric light bulb. Although Thomas Edison is generally credited for the invention of the light bulb, it was actually Canadian Henry Woodward who first invented a version in 1874. Woodward sold the patent to Edison, who saw the light and made his bright idea commercially viable.

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