April 21 is World Creativity & Innovation Day! The theme for this year is "collaboration", and in these uncertain times, the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) is continuing to work with our clients towards achieving their creative and innovative objectives.
Creativity and innovation have led to significant advancements in history and many notable trailblazers have Canadian origins. To celebrate this day, we are highlighting Canadian innovators across history.
Elijah McCoy (1844-1929)
Elijah McCoy is a Canadian American inventor and engineer. Born to former slaves who used the underground railroad to escape to Canada, McCoy was born in Colchester, Ontario. McCoy was an inventor, notorious for his innovations in industrial lubrication. He solved the issue of engine lubrication and overheating by creating an automatic lubricator for locomotive steam engines. He procured his first patent in 1872.
McCoy would go on to become a prolific inventor, acquiring 57 patents in his lifetime. He would also become a consultant to the railroad industry regarding matters of patents. In 1920, McCoy created the Elijah McCoy Manufacturing Company and produced lubricators with the official McCoy name. His contributions made substantial impacts on the transportation industry. At the age of 72, he patented his most intricate innovation, a lubricator created for "superheater" locomotive engines.
Frederick Banting (1891-1941)
Frederick Banting is a Canadian inventor, physician, scientist, and Nobel laureate, notable for co-discovering insulin. Born in Alliston, Ontario, Banting studied medicine at the University of Toronto, later serving as a medical officer in the Canadian Army Medical Corps during the First World War. He would go on to train as a surgeon at the Toronto Hospital of Sick Children, ultimately opening a practice in London, Ontario, while lecturing at a local medical school. It is here that Banting began exploring diabetes research.
Banting brought his research to John Macleod, a physiologist at the University of Toronto. It is at the university that Banting, assisted by Charles Herbert Best, along with Macleod began their experiments. They would go on to become the first to discover insulin, winning the 1923 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the discovery. Aware that the finding of insulin was going to have an enormous impact on the treatment of diabetes, Banting sold the patent for it for $1, also granting pharmaceutical companies the licence to make insulin, notably stating "insulin doesn’t belong to me, it belongs to the world". Banting would become Canada’s first professor of medical research, at the University of Toronto. He was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame in 2021.
Leone Farrell (1904-1986)
A trailblazer for women in the field of science, Leone Farrell changed the treatment of polio and other diseases forever. Born in Monkland, Ontario, Farrell was a microbiologist and biochemist whose work played a crucial role in the development of vaccines and antibiotics.
Dr. Leone Farrell is the woman behind the infamous "Toronto Method" that resulted in the rate of polio infections going from 50,000 among Canadian children in the 1950s to an almost zero infection rate in 1965. The "Toronto Method" significantly advanced the production of vaccines by allowing the safe generation of large quantities of a liquid growth mixture, enabling mass production of the vaccine. Similar to Banting’s approach to patenting insulin, Farrell requested that the mass production process not be patented in order to ensure other labs within Canada and globally were able to produce enough vaccines to fight polio, among other infectious diseases.
Alan Emtage (1964-)
Alan Emtage is a revolutionary figure in technology, known as the father of the search engine. He created ARCHIE, the world’s first search engine. Originally from Barbados, Emtage attended McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, receiving a Bachelor of Science in computer science, followed by a master’s degree in computer science. While pursuing his master’s degree, Emtage took a position as part of the computer science department’s technical support. In this role, he was responsible for finding software on the Internet. At the time, the Internet was still in its early days thus the searching process was long and tedious. In order to streamline the process, Emtage created a script that would automatically search through an index for File Transfer Protocol (FTP) sites. Eventually, Emtage realized there was a demand for such functionality and ARCHIE went from a locally used tool to a network-wide resource where it gained rapid exposure.
Created in 1989, ARCHIE was revolutionary as it essentially allowed common users to search the Internet. It paved the path for modern search engines today such as Google and Yahoo, by being the first to search for FTP files. In 1991, Emtage and his peer from McGill founded Bunyip Information Systems Inc, the first company dedicated to providing Internet information services. Through this company, ARCHIE was available as a licensed commercial search engine used globally. Also working as a founding member of the Internet Society, Emtage chaired various working groups at the Internet Engineering Task Force, such as the one that created the standard for Uniform Resource Locators (URLs). He has also participated in various panels including the National Science Foundation and the Online Computer Library Center. Emtage’s creation, the ARCHIE search engine is still available online today.
Nadine Caron (1970-)
Nadine Caron is a significant innovator in Canadian public health, being the first Indigenous female general surgeon in Canada. Born in 1970 in Kamloops, British Columbia, Caron was the first Indigenous woman to graduate from the University of British Columbia (UBC), Faculty of Medicine. As a doctor, researcher, educator, and community leader, Caron has provided a voice to the Indigenous communities in rural and northern Canada.
Caron graduated from Simon Fraser University with a degree in kinesiology, then went on to complete her medical degree at UBC and received a master’s degree in public health from Harvard University. Throughout her career, she has served as an educator in numerous faculties, and as a member of various committees, with a primary focus on health policy and Indigenous health. In 2020, Caron became the founding First Nations Health Authority Chair in Cancer and Wellness at UBC. This position aims to advance cancer treatments and wellness of Indigenous patients and their relatives. At the University Hospital of Northern British Columbia, Caron leads the Northern Biobank Initiative. This project empowers northern residents of British Columbia, specifically aiming to grant rural Indigenous communities with further equitable accessibility to genomic research.
The creativity and innovation of Canadians has led to momentous change on a global scale. Thanks to these thinkers there have been leaps in public health, life changing technological advancements, and empowerment of marginalized communities.
This World Creativity & Innovation Day, we encourage you to learn about the historical contributions made by remarkable Canadian thinkers and innovators.