16 Things You Probably Didn’t Know Were Invented in Canada
Almost everybody knows that such famous inventions as hockey, basketball, Insulin, and poutine all have their roots in our rich Canadian history. But there are also many everyday and exceptional items that found their first home in Canada. Things that you may not even realize were born here.
These amazing inventions run the gamut from sonar all the way to everyday staples such as peanut butter (yes, peanut butter was invented in Canada!).
Not uncommonly, history has given the credit for some of these Canadian inventions to others. Right down to the electric light bulb, which was invented by two Canadians - Henry Woodward and Matthew Evans – years before Thomas Edison had his own bright idea. The pair eventually sold their patent rights to Thomas Edison, who – in time – became incorrectly known as the inventor of the electric light bulb.
It’s important to take pride in all of the ways Canadians, and Canada as a whole, has contributed to the enriching and improving the lives of people around the world. From a classic PB&J sandwich, which would be impossible with the PB, to the life-saving training that is performed using CPR Dummies, we can be proud to know that our country has changed the world for the better.
16 Amazing Things Invented in Canada That You Might Not Know About
Although many people believe that George Washington Carver invented Peanut Butter, that is – in fact – not true. He is known for promoting more than 300 uses for peanuts, and perhaps that’s why people mistakenly attribute the invention of peanut butter to him.
But the true origins of peanut butter start with Quebec native Marcellus Gilmore Edson who created peanut paste by milling roasted peanuts between two heated surfaces way back in 1884. It would take several other inventors, and nearly 50 years, before peanut butter became the commercially available sandwich spread that we all know and love (unless you have a peanut allergy, of course), but it all started with Edson.
The California Roll
You wouldn’t think it from the name, but the California Roll was actually invented in Vancouver, Canada.
British Columbia Restaurant Hall of Famer, Hidekazu Tojo, created the California roll to address the aversion to raw fish and seaweed that many Westerners had back in the early 1970s.
Another thing Western people did not eat was seaweed, so I tried to hide it. I made the roll inside out. - Hidekazu Tojo
It became so popular, especially with tourists from the LA region, that it eventually became known as The California Roll.
Such a useful yet commonplace item, it’s hard to imagine life without them. But before Harry Wasylyk & Larry Hansen invented the disposable green polyethylene garbage bag in 1950, no such thing existed. Both of these heroes of the everyday household were from Canada.
Although now the world seems to be returning to the classics, using old Ash Cans to store their compost materials for their own compost system or for municipal pickups.
Yet another Canadian invention that is often credited to someone else. The way we watch sports was forever changed when George Retzlaff used a new technique to quickly develop a kinescope recording of a goal that could be rebroadcasted – or replayed - within thirty seconds of the original airing, creating the first iteration of the “Instant Replay.”
8 years later, in 1963, Tony Verna – who is often given credit for inventing the Instant Replay concept - used a similar but updated video tape process to broadcast the first Instant Replay in the US during the Army-Navy football game.
You know that scene in a tense nautical action thriller where someone on a ship or a submarine yells “Can you detect anything on sonar???” Those scenes might never have existed – along with all of the real-life applications – if it weren’t for Canadian-born inventor Reginald Fessenden. Although there were passive underwater listening devices prior to his invention, the Fessenden Oscillator was the first of its kind to be able to create sounds under water and pick up their echoes.
Before there was Google, there was Archie. The first tool ever to be used for searching content on the Internet was called Archie, which came from simply removing the “v” from "archive", and was created by Alan Emtage, Bill Heelan, and J. Peter Deutsch, each of whom were computer science students at McGill University in Montreal.
The Robertson Screwdriver
The Red Robertson – otherwise known as “the square one” - is a staple for any home repair or DIY enthusiast. But it did not exist until Peter Lymburner Robertson - a Canadian inventor, industrialist, salesman, and philanthropist - came up with the idea for the square-socket for screws in 1908 after becoming frustrated with the constant slippage of flat screws. The Phillips Head – otherwise known as the “the one with the star” - followed suit about 25 years later (but that one isn't Canadian).
The Memory Foam Mattress
Just kidding, memory foam was not actually invented in Canada. That claim belongs to Charles Yost from NASA, which eventually became the foundation for the Swedish Tempur bed in 1991. However, The Perfect 10” Memory Foam Mattress was invented in Toronto, so that sort of counts.
Whether you used them as a child for outdoor (or indoor) play, or for serious endeavours, you can thank Donald Lewes Hings for the two-way communication device known as the Walkie-Talkie. Hings, a Canadian inventor, created a portable radio in 1937. He originally called the device a "packset", but it later became known as the "Walkie-Talkie".
Dry Ginger Ale
I know you’re thirsty, but you don’t have to drink Canada Dry! That’s an old joke from when I was a child, and it – of course – referred to a play on the popular brand of Ginger Ale. What you may not know is that today’s Ginger Ale – or Dry Ginger Ale as it was originally named – was created by Canadian John J. McLaughlin as a more refreshing alternative to the traditional Golden Ginger Ale. An instant success, Canada Dry Ginger Ale quickly surpassed its predecessor and became a supermarket staple around the world.
Instant Mashed Potatoes
Love them because of their convenience or hate them because you think it’s cheating; Instant Mashed Potatoes are a common side dish on today’s dinner tables. But they wouldn’t have been if not for the hard work and determination of one Edward Asselbergs. Asselbergs migrated to Canada during the second world war and ended up creating the potato flakes while working for the Canadian Department of Agriculture in 1960.
The Paint Roller
Unfortunately, the true origins of the paint roller have been painted over like a bad color choice. It was a Torontonian named Norman Breakey who originally devised this handy painting tool that allowed practically anyone to produce a smooth finish in a fraction of the time. Unfortunately, he neglected to patent the device, which resulted in others benefiting from his inventiveness. This included American engineer Richard Croxton Adams, who received a patent for an extremely similar device after claiming to have invented it in his basement.
Yet another name deception, the much-debated Hawaiian pizza was actually created in Canada - not Hawaii - by Sam Panopoulos, who decided to add pineapple to his pizza way back in the early 1960s in an effort to attract customers to one of his restaurants in Ontario. What he also created was a fierce debate over the merits of Hawaiian pizza that has lasted for nearly 60 years.
We just put it on, just for the fun of it, see how it was going to taste. We were young in the business and we were doing a lot of experiments. - Sam PanopoulosIs the Hawaiian Pizza a fresh alternative to classic toppings or an abomination?? Feel free to let us know in the comments below.
From a high school dropout to one of the co-creators of the most popular board game of the 1980s, Chris Haney is an unlikely Canadian hero. The frustrating yet popular game of Trivial Pursuit, which tests the players knowledge of far-reaching pieces of trivia, was created in Montreal by Canadians Chris Haney and Scott Abbott after discovering that pieces of their Scrabble game missing. Instead of playing a round of Scrabble with missing pieces, they set out to create their own game.
The zipper has a long history of innovation, and American inventor Whitcomb L Judson is sometimes given credit for the invention of the zipper, even though he never made a practical device. However, the true creator of the modern zipper is Gideon Sundback, a Swedish-American electrical engineer who migrated to Canada 7 years before designing what we use to zip up our stuff.
The Electric Oven
The first person to use electricity to power the common oven was Canadian Thomas Ahearn, who cooked an entire meal in an electric oven in 1892. However, it would take nearly 50 years for this item start becoming the household appliance that it is today.
The first ready-to-use baby cereal that was enriched with vitamins and minerals was invented by doctors Alan Brown, Theodore Drake, and Frederick Tisdall at the University of Toronto in 1930. The Pablum brand name was eventually acquired by the H.J. Heinz Company, but royalties from its sales continue to support research at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children.
Thank You Canada, for All of These Great Canadian Inventions!
So remember, the next time you sit down to enjoy a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or you pop a frozen Hawaiian pizza into your electric oven before you sit down to watch the football game with a glass of Rye and Ginger, these things might not exist the way you know them today if it weren’t for some inventive Canadians.
Need to re-invent your sleep? Maybe it's time for a new mattress?