The Greatest Canadian Inventions

by DaniGirl on January 4, 2007 · 19 comments

in Canadianisms, Life, the Universe and Everything

I’m in love with CBC TV lately. Last night, I got completely sucked in by an unexpectedly delightful TV special called The Greatest Canadian Invention. It used a combination of archival clips and commentaters to count down the 50 greatest Canadian inventions, as ranked by the Canadian public.

It was full of cultural references and asides spanning the Wiggles to the Kids in the Hall to CSI, and a good dose of quintessentially Canadian humour. Astronaut Chris Hadfield, for instance, in describing the iconic Canadarm, explained that it was so sensitive that it could “take a pencil and stick it up your nose.” He also mentioned that there wasn’t a lot of forethought put into inscribing the Canada wordmark into the insulation around the arm, but when NASA saw that logo in every camera shot beamed back to millions of viewers on Earth, they were quick to put an American flag on the back of the space shuttle to compensate.

The commentaters, a collection of B-list Canadian personalities ranging from Margaret Atwood and Will Ferguson to Mitsou to Mike Holmes and Debbie Travis (I can just hear my American readers saying, “Who??”) and the archival clips of everything from Pierre Trudeau paddling a canoe to the old WonderBra commercials from the 1970s (remember that song? “Wonderful wonderful… WonderBra”?) transformed this into a clever, witty, culturally-laden and ultimately fascinating look at the history of Canadian inventions.

And about those inventions… who knew? I couldn’t find an easy-to-copy list on cbc.ca, so I lifted this one from Wikipedia (I’ve put my “I had no idea” revelations in bold):

Alkaline battery
Ardox Spiral Nail
Automatic Lubricating Cup
Basketball
Birch-Bark Canoe
BlackBerry
Bloody Caesar
Canadarm
Caulking gun
Cobalt-60 “Bomb” Cancer Treatment
CPR-Mannequin: “Actar 911”
Crash-Position Indicator-CPI
Electric Oven
Electric Wheelchair
Electron Microscope
Electronic Music Synthesizer
Explosives Vapour Detector
Five Pin Bowling
Fog horn
Goalie mask
Green Garbage Bag
G-Suit
Instant Mashed Potatoes
Instant Replay
Insulin
Java programming language
Key Frame Animation
Lacrosse
Light Bulb
Marine Screw Propeller
Marquis Wheat
Pablum
Pacemaker
Paint roller
Plexiglas
Poutine
Radio Voice Transmission
Retractable Beer Carton Handle
Robertson screw
Self-Propelled Combine Harvester
Separable Baggage Check
Ski-Doo
Snowblower
Standard Time
Telephone
UV Degradable Plastics
Walkie-Talkie
Weevac 6
Wonderbra
Zipper

These are in alphabetical order, rather than the order in which they were ultimately ranked. The top three, though were insulin, the lightbulb (invented by Canadians, and then the patent was sold to Thomas Edison for $5000) and the telephone.

I love the fact that the retractable beer case handle and poutine made the list! Kudos to CBC for putting together such an enjoyable and ultimately educational show. I hadn’t meant to watch any more than a few minutes, but from the start I was hooked for the full two hours. Bravo!


{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Miche January 4, 2007 at 2:12 pm

We caught that show last night and we were hooked too. (Although there was much kvetching about things like poutine and the beer-case handles outstripping pablum and electric stoves!)
It’s nice to see patriotic shows that are fun and educational!

2 Miche January 4, 2007 at 2:12 pm

We caught that show last night and we were hooked too. (Although there was much kvetching about things like poutine and the beer-case handles outstripping pablum and electric stoves!)
It’s nice to see patriotic shows that are fun and educational!

3 Madeleine January 4, 2007 at 3:06 pm

Darn, sorry I missed that. Canadians, such clever, helpful people. And so polite! 🙂

4 Madeleine January 4, 2007 at 3:06 pm

Darn, sorry I missed that. Canadians, such clever, helpful people. And so polite! 🙂

5 nancy January 4, 2007 at 3:32 pm

I missed it….darn. Sounds great!

6 nancy January 4, 2007 at 3:32 pm

I missed it….darn. Sounds great!

7 Myra January 4, 2007 at 3:50 pm

Agreed on all fronts…that show was an unexpected delight. Lots of surprises and more than a few snorts and snickers. Ditto on the kvetching about poutine but – hey – you never know what you’re gonna get when the virtual world votes… even on the CBC website! For those in or visiting Ottawa check out the Science and Technology Museum where there is a gallery of Canadian inventions…

8 Myra January 4, 2007 at 3:50 pm

Agreed on all fronts…that show was an unexpected delight. Lots of surprises and more than a few snorts and snickers. Ditto on the kvetching about poutine but – hey – you never know what you’re gonna get when the virtual world votes… even on the CBC website! For those in or visiting Ottawa check out the Science and Technology Museum where there is a gallery of Canadian inventions…

9 Sue January 4, 2007 at 4:32 pm

Beer and poutine. I heart Canada.
I knew we had invented the Bloody Ceasar. We went to the US in the early 80s and when I asked for a Ceasar, the barkeep thought I wanted a salad.

10 Sue January 4, 2007 at 4:32 pm

Beer and poutine. I heart Canada.
I knew we had invented the Bloody Ceasar. We went to the US in the early 80s and when I asked for a Ceasar, the barkeep thought I wanted a salad.

11 Ed January 4, 2007 at 4:33 pm

It was a pretty good show but there was one invention they didn’t mention which I thought warranted some say.
They talked about the retractable handle on the 12-pack beer case but what they failed to mention was the invention of the slots on the 24 that are big enough to accomodate a hand with a glove on it to make carrying it easier.

12 Ed January 4, 2007 at 4:33 pm

It was a pretty good show but there was one invention they didn’t mention which I thought warranted some say.
They talked about the retractable handle on the 12-pack beer case but what they failed to mention was the invention of the slots on the 24 that are big enough to accomodate a hand with a glove on it to make carrying it easier.

13 Rebecca January 4, 2007 at 4:47 pm

How can you ‘invent’ Standard Time? O_o

14 Rebecca January 4, 2007 at 4:47 pm

How can you ‘invent’ Standard Time? O_o

15 P. January 4, 2007 at 5:08 pm

Interesting list. but what about Butter tarts?? As a Canadian living in the US, I cannot believe there is no such thing as a butter tart south of the border!

16 P. January 4, 2007 at 5:08 pm

Interesting list. but what about Butter tarts?? As a Canadian living in the US, I cannot believe there is no such thing as a butter tart south of the border!

17 BeachMama January 4, 2007 at 8:50 pm

Very Cool. I did know many of those, but a few were a surprise.

18 BeachMama January 4, 2007 at 8:50 pm

Very Cool. I did know many of those, but a few were a surprise.

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