Easily overshadowed by the neighbouring superpower to the south, Canada is actually entitled to its own fair share of bragging rights. It is, after all, the second largest country on earth, by area, after Russia. It’s also home to the second largest oil reserves on the planet, after Saudi Arabia. A great number of artists, authors and musicians hail from Canada, including Margaret Atwood, Jack Kerouac, Neil Young and Leonard Cohen. But how many Canadian inventions can you think of that changed the world as we know it?
No, perhaps you can’t think of a single one. Which is why we put together this list. Because it turns out there are quite a few great inventions from Canada. It’s just that Canada rarely, if ever, gets any credit for these tremendous discoveries and innovations. And Canadian culture is such that they are not the types to jump up and down just to set the record straight.
But once in a while it needs to be done. Someone has to stand up and say, “Hey, I thought of that lightbulb first!” And today, I guess, that someone is me.
13 Canadian inventions that will surprise you
1. Ginger Ale
Toronto chemist and pharmacist, John J. McLaughlin came up with this refreshing libation back in 1904. The concoction was later reformulated as Canada Dry. Although tasty on its own, it also mixes particularly well with Canadian whiskey.
If I told you there was an internationally celebrated sport that comes from Canada, your first guess probably wouldn’t be basketball. But believe it or not, James Naismith of Ontario invented the game in 1891 at the age of 30. He literally wrote the book, and within 15 years basketball was a demonstration sport in the 1904 Olympic games.
3. Chocolate Bar
It’s hard to imagine a world without chocolate bars, but before Arthur Ganong and George Ensor took an otherwise uneventful fishing trip through New Brunswick in 1904, that’s the way it was. The owner and employee of a small chocolate-making company, Ganong and Ensor suddenly found a way to make their weekend road trips immensely more enjoyable, even when the fish weren’t biting.
4. Trivial Pursuit
If any of these facts ever appeared in a board game, that board game would have to be Trivial Pursuit. And wouldn’t you know it, a couple of news editors from Montreal actually invented the game in 1979. Today there are oodles of spin offs and variations, including Star Wars Trivial Pursuit and Saturday Night Live Trivial Pursuit.
5. The Abdominizer
Canadian chiropractor Dennis Colonello devised this abdomen exercising device in 1984. What could be more useful after six months of Canadian winter and drinking beer indoors than a good workout for the belly muscles? With a little discipline, you can now enjoy a six-pack of suds and still maintain your six-pack abs.
Perhaps the most shocking item on the list, but forget what you thought you knew about Thomas Edison of Menlo Park. Toronto med student Henry Woodward produced the first electric lightbulb lamp and get a patent in 1874. Edison had the bright idea of purchasing the patent the following year, and never looked back.
It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Wayne Gretzky! No, but it’s the next best thing: Superman. Canadian Joe Shuster co-created this iconic superhero with help from American comic book writer Jerome Siegel. How’s that for truth, justice and the American way?
Frederick Banting at the University of Toronto was the first scientist to successfully isolate insulin for the treatment of diabetes. He and John Macleod received the Nobel Prize for their work in 1923.
According to legend, an unnamed Canadian couple developed this riveting dice game which they used to play regularly on their boat. They called it the yacht game, and Hasbro later renamed it Yahtzee. Let the good times roll!
10. Prosthetic Hand
Once you realize the number of great inventions to have come from Canada, you really have to hand it to them. But in this case, they seem to be the ones with an extra hand to give. Helmut Lucas put the first electric hand together in 1971. I don’t know if the patent has expired yet, but I’ll go out on a limb and guess that someone is making money hand over fist with this outstanding medical achievement.
Here’s another sport, and perhaps you were still waiting for us to mention ice hockey. Sorry, but this is meant to be a list of Canadian inventions you DIDN’T know about. And we’re pretty sure you already know about the country’s greatest pastime. Lesser known lacrosse is actually a product of Algonquian tribal culture. The oldest sport in North America, dating back to the 17th century, was originally part of an indigenous religious ritual. Check out the Hall of Fame next time you’re in New Westminster, B.C.
Somewhat more recently, Canadian computer scientist James Gosling developed the Java programming language back in the 90s. The 1990s, that is. Today, pretty much everyone who uses a computer enjoys the benefits of this computational innovation. Although much of the country is bilingual, Java has yet to be recognized as one of the official languages in Canada.
13. Documentary Films
As long as we’re documenting this impressive catalog of Canadian inventions, it seems worth mentioning that the documentary film genre originated in Canada. Nanook of the North came out in 1922 and was the first film ever to be classified as a documentary, although today we might consider it something more akin to a “docu-drama”. Don’t expect to find this silent sleeper on Netflix.
Canada for the future
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PHOTO CREDIT: Terry Vlisidis (Unsplash)