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Famous Canadian Inventions

Here are five inventions that have changed the world, and impacted the ways in which people live their everyday lives, from right here in Canada.

Archie 

Launched on September 10th, 1990, and considered to be the first internet search engine, Archie, which comes from the word “Archive” without the “v”, was created by Alan Emtage, a Bajan-Canadian computer scientist. 

While studying as a postgraduate student and working as a systems manager at the McGill University School of Computer Science, Emtage was in charge of manually digging through various File Transfer Protocol (FTP) servers on the internet to find software for students and faculty members. To make his job more efficient, he wrote code that would electronically search directories stored on the internet. 

While very simple in comparison to what we use today, we would not have search engines such as Google if it had not been for Emtage with Archie.

Insulin 

In the early 1920s, at University of Toronto, a research team led by Dr. Frederick Banting, along with research assistant Dr. Charles Best, biochemist James Collip, and supervising professor John McLeod, created the extraction and purification process of insulin for use in humans.

At this point, insulin had been discovered, and medical experts were conducting research into extracting insulin from a healthy animal pancreas without destroying the insulin. Banting had ideas on how the process should be done and presented them to McLeod. McLeod gave Banting space to do his research and appointed Best as his assistant, and together, their experiments were successful. Collip then refined and purified the insulin as the diluted properties of unrefined insulin caused health problems in patients. 

This proved to be lifesaving, and in 1923, the team received Nobel Prizes in Physiology or Medicine. They then sold the patent for their discovery to the UofT board of governors for $1, on the grounds of medical ethics.

Electric Wheelchair 

In World War One, soldiers who suffered wartime spinal cord injuries overwhelmingly died from their injuries. However, with the discovery and wide use of penicillin by the early 1940’s, soldiers who suffered from the same injury during World War Two, were far less likely to die. However, these men would require use of mobility devices, usually wheelchairs, for the rest of their lives. 

Veterans soon became unhappy with manual wheelchairs and made a request to the National Research Council and one George Klein, to build a new chair. In 1953, Klein, a mechanical engineer and designer, collaborated with academics, technicians, healthcare professionals, and most importantly, patients to create an electric wheelchair. He himself invented the joystick, tighter turning systems, and separate wheel drives.

McIntosh Red Apple 

John McIntosh, a farmer, and fruit breeder discovered seedling trees growing in the wild around his newly bought property. He transplanted them to his farm, and only one tree survived to the following year. After many years the tree began producing the iconic red apple that we know today, the McIntosh Red.

While it is unknown when exactly this discovery happened, with estimates stating sometime around 1811, it wasn’t until later that the McIntosh Red became popularized. This is because seeds from the tree, while they did produce apples, were not the same as the original tree. In 1835, McIntosh’s son, Allan, learned grafting or cloning, and was finally able to reproduce the fruit of the original tree. 

Jolly Jumper 

Olivia Poole was raised on the Ojibwe White Earth Reservation in Minnesota. There, the women followed a tradition of soothing babies using a bouncing cradleboard which was often suspended from a branch to act as a hammock or swing.

Poole, who had moved to Manitoba to study music at Brandon College, found that living in Canada, she did not have a cradleboard and fashioned one using items from around the house. To do this, she sewed a cloth diaper to create a harness and created a brace with an axe handle. Later, she would also add a spring and rubber connection so the baby could bounce on its own.

While not introduced to the public until she was a grandmother, Poole became one of the first Indigenous women in Canada to patent and profit from an invention in 1957.

Lauren Schwartz | Staff Writer

Spring 2024

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