Science | The Canadian Encyclopedia


This timeline chronicles scientific innovation and discovery in Canada

Dr. Charles H. Best and Dr. G.R. Williams
  1. November 30, 1618


    First Comet Sighting

    The first sighting of a comet by Europeans in Canada was recorded.

  2. December 31, 1638


    Lunar Eclipse

    A lunar eclipse was sighted in Huronia.

  3. April 22, 1662


    Royal Society Chartered

    King Charles II of England chartered the Royal Society of London, the oldest scientific organization in Britain.

  4. December 25, 1758


    Halley's Comet Returns

    As predicted by Edmond Halley in 1705, the comet of 1682 returned, the first ever predicted.

  5. August 19, 1809


    Accommodation Launched

    The first steamboat in Canada, the Accommodation, was launched at Montreal. Driven by two paddle wheels and powered by a steam engine, it heralded a new age and showed that Canadians could keep abreast of the latest technology.

  6. July 20, 1854

    Victoria Bridge


    Work Begins on Victoria Bridge

    The first stone, from the Kahnawake quarry, was laid on the abutment of the Victoria Bridge, spanning the St Lawrence River at Montreal.

  7. July 17, 1860


    Total Eclipse Obscured

    An American expedition, including Nova Scotia-born astronomer Simon Newcomb, arrived in northern Manitoba to observe a total eclipse, but were thwarted by clouds on the crucial day.

  8. August 25, 1860

    Victoria Bridge


    Victoria Bridge Opened

    The Prince of Wales presided over a ceremony officially opening the Victoria Bridge, spanning the St Lawrence River at Montreal. It was considered one of the engineering wonders of its day.

  9. February 08, 1879

    Sir Sandford Fleming


    Fleming's Standard Time

    Sandford Fleming first proposed to divide the world into 24 equal time zones, with a standard time within each zone. His idea was adopted by 24 countries at a conference in 1884.

  10. February 04, 1882


    Electricity comes to BC

    The first electricity came to BC, at the Moodyville sawmill on Burrard Inlet, powering the first electric lights on the Pacific coast north of San Francisco.

  11. December 30, 1882


    Royal Society of Canada

    The Royal Society of Canada was founded by the governor general, the Marquis of Lorne.

  12. November 18, 1883


    Standard Time Adopted

    Standard Time, advocated by Sandford Fleming, was adopted by North America. Fleming was instrumental in convening the 1884 International Prime Meridian Conference at which all 25 represented nations adopted international standard time.

  13. August 08, 1887


    Vancouver Lights Up

    The Vancouver Electric Illumination Society (later, BC Hydro) started up its steam-powered generating plant - and 300 streetlights went on.

  14. May 26, 1896

    Point Ellice Bridge Disaster


    Point Ellice Bridge Disaster

    During celebrations for Queen Victoria's birthday, a span of the bridge at Point Ellice in the harbour of Victoria, BC, fell out. A loaded streetcar fell with it and 55 people were killed, the worst streetcar accident in North American history.

  15. March 13, 1900

    Chesterfield Inlet


    Tyrrell's Survey

    J.W. Tyrrell began a 2782 km journey to survey the area from Great Slave Lake to Chesterfield Inlet.

  16. December 23, 1900

    Fessenden and his Inventions


    Fessenden's Wireless

    Reginald Aubrey Fessenden of Québec transmitted the first wireless voice broadcast near Washington, DC. On December 24, 1906, he made the first radio voice broadcast from Brant Rock, Mass.

  17. August 29, 1907

    Québec Bridge Disaster


    Québec Bridge Disaster, 1907

    Part of the Québec Bridge, the longest cantilever bridge in the world, collapsed, killing 75 workmen. Blame for the collapse was placed on the American engineer Theodore Cooper and faulty we plates.

  18. October 11, 1910


    First Long-distance Transmission

    An Ontario Hydro transmission line brought Niagara Falls-generated electricity to Berlin (Kitchener), Ont, the first long-distance transmission of electricity in Canada.

  19. August 01, 1911

    Faith Fyles


    Faith Fyles Becomes First Woman Assistant Botanist at the Department of Agriculture

    Faith Fyles was the first woman hired to the position of assistant botanist by the Central Experimental Farm (CEF), part of the Department of Agriculture (now Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada). In 1919, she became the department’s first botanical artist, male or female.

  20. July 24, 1914


    Birth of Frances Kelsey

    Frances Kelsey, the Canadian doctor hailed as a hero for withholding approval of the drug thalidomide in the United States, was born in Cobble Hill, BC. While employed at the US Food and Drug Administration in the early 1960s, Kelsey likely saved thousands of American children from severe deformities and disabilities by refusing to approve the drug for sale, despite the fact that it was already being prescribed in Europe and Canada. Her suspicions were confirmed in 1961, when reports emerged of birth defects among children born to women who had taken thalidomide during pregnancy.

  21. February 14, 1916


    First Long-Distance Call

    The first long-distance call in Canada was placed from Montréal to Vancouver, from the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Montreal to the Globe Theatre in Vancouver.

  22. September 11, 1916

    Québec Bridge Collapse, 1916


    Québec Bridge Disaster, 1916

    A new centre span of the Québec Bridge fell into the river as it was being hoisted into position, killing 13 men.

  23. March 18, 1918


    Daylight Saving Time Introduced

    Daylight saving time was introduced in Canada by the federal government as a measure for increasing war production, emulating legislation in Germany and Britain.

  24. May 21, 1919

    Portrait of Dr. John A. Hopps


    Birth of Inventor and Research Scientist John A. Hopps

    Trained as an electrical engineerJohn A. Hopps was recruited to design a cardiac pacemaker with a team of scientists at the Banting Institute in Toronto while he was working on another project at the National Research Council of Canada (NRC). This resulted in the invention of a portable artificial external pacemaker. The device marked a significant medical milestone and laid the groundwork for implantable pacemakers.

  25. July 27, 1921

    Charles Herbert Best, physiologist


    Banting and Best Isolate Insulin

    Frederick Banting and Charles Best at the University of Toronto first isolated insulin. The first diabetes patient was treated on 11 January 1922. Banting and J.J.R. Macleod received the Nobel Prize for their achievement.

  26. September 16, 1921


    Birth of Ursula Franklin

    Physicist Ursula Franklin, who pioneered the development of archaeometry (the application of modern techniques of materials analysis to archaeology), was born in Munich, Germany.

  27. October 25, 1923

    Charles Herbert Best, physiologist


    Banting and Macleod Win Nobel

    The Nobel Prize for Medicine was awarded jointly to Frederick Banting and J.J.R. Macleod for the discovery of insulin.

  28. November 02, 1925


    Debut of Electrical Recording

    RCA Victor unveiled its electrical recording system. It had made the first electrical recording at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York on March 31.

  29. May 16, 1930



    LaBine Finds Uranium

    Prospector Gilbert LaBine discovered pitchblende, the chief source of uranium and radium, at Great Bear Lake, NWT.

  30. May 07, 1935



    David Dunlap Observatory

    The David Dunlap Observatory at Richmond Hill, Ont, was completed, the second largest in the world at that time.

  31. January 01, 1936

    Dr. Maude Abbott, 1894

    People  Science 

    Maude Abbott’s Atlas of Congenital Cardiac Disease Is Published

    Published by the American Heart Association in 1936, Maude Abbott’s Atlas of Congenital Cardiac Disease was a groundbreaking text in cardiac research. The life-saving publication helped doctors to better understand and diagnose heart defects and to develop new ways to treat them.

  32. February 19, 1938


    Mysterious Big Bang

    A mysterious "big bang" woke thousands of people in Vancouver, yet no cause was ever found.

  33. June 29, 1938

    Portrait of Annette Herscovics


    Birth of Biochemist Annette Herscovics

    Annette Herscovics was born in Paris, France, and immigrated to Canada following the Second World War. She later studied at McGill University and worked there for several years before moving to Harvard Medical School. She returned to McGill as a full professor in 1981 and became known for her pioneering work on glycoproteins. She discovered where and how these modifications occur in our cells — a key development in the field of glycobiology.

  34. October 17, 1941


    Death of John Stanley Plaskett

    Astronomer John Stanley Plaskett died at Esquimalt, BC. As director of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory north of Victoria, he pioneered research on the rotation of the Milky Way Galaxy.

  35. December 02, 1942


    Fermi Achieves Chain Reaction

    At the University of Chicago, Italian physicist Enrico Fermi achieved the first sustained nuclear chain reaction, leading to the atomic bomb and nuclear power.

  36. July 22, 1947


    Canada's First Nuclear Reactors

    The NRX reactor, the ancestor of Canada's unique CANDU reactors, "went critical" at Chalk River, Ont. The NRX was based on Canada's first nuclear reactor, ZEEP (1 watt of power), which was built at Chalk River in 1945.

  37. October 23, 1950

    Image of an experimental external cardiac pacemaker-defibrillator


    Bigelow, Callaghan and Hopps Unveil the Portable Artificial External Pacemaker

    Cardiac surgeon Dr. Wilfred Bigelow, research fellow Dr. John Carter Callaghan, and Dr. John A. Hopps of the National Research Council of Canada delivered their findings on their newly invented portable artificial external pacemaker to the American College of Surgeons in Boston. The device was designed to send electric pulses to the heart, causing the heart to contract and pump blood to the body. It marked a significant medical milestone and laid the groundwork for implantable pacemakers.

  38. September 15, 1956

    Image of an experimental external cardiac pacemaker-defibrillator


    Reports of Canada’s First Successful Open-Heart Surgery

    Dr. John Carter Callaghan performed Canada’s first successful open-heart surgery on 10-year-old Susan Beattie, who had a hole in her heart. On 15 November 1956, the Edmonton Journal described the event as “the greatest single advance in heart surgery in recent years.” Callaghan was also known for co-developing the portable artificial pacemaker.

  39. August 29, 1959


    Birth of Chris Hadfield

    Astronaut Chris Hadfield, who became the first Canadian among the support team at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, was born at Sarnia, Ont.

  40. February 20, 1962


    Glenn Orbits the Earth

    Astronaut John Glenn was the first American to orbit the Earth when he circled it three times in the space capsule Friendship 7.

  41. June 15, 1962


    Canada's First Space Vehicle

    Canada's first space vehicle, a 11.3 kg non-orbiting instrument package, was launched from Wallops Island, Virginia.

  42. September 29, 1962


    Alouette-I Launched

    Canada's first orbiting satellite, Alouette-I, was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

  43. October 25, 1962


    Bedford Institute Opened

    The Bedford Institute of Oceanography was opened, near Halifax.

  44. July 15, 1965

    Miner at the Face


    SOQUÉM Created

    The Société québécoise d'exploration minière (SOQUÉM) was created.

  45. November 09, 1965


    Electrical Blackout

    The failure of a relay device of Ontario Hydro's Queenston generating station triggered a massive power failure extending from the Atlantic coast of the US to Chicago, and from Florida to southern Ontario, lasting up to 12 hours.

  46. January 01, 1970



    Plant Gene Resources of Canada is Established

    Plant Gene Resources of Canada (PGRC), Canada’s national seed gene bank, was founded to protect, preserve, and enhance the genetic diversity of Canada’s important agricultural plants and their wild relatives. PGRC has played a major role in protecting Canada’s agricultural crops and biodiversity while contributing to food security at home and around the world.

  47. January 16, 1970


    Plans to Convert to Metric

    The government announced plans to convert from the imperial to the metric system of measurement. A special commission was appointed to oversee the introduction of metric.

  48. March 07, 1970



    Total Eclipse of the Sun

    A total eclipse of the sun cast a shadow 160 kilometers wide along Canada's Atlantic coast, sweeping the length of Nova Scotia and across Newfoundland.

  49. September 09, 1970


    DDT Pesticides Banned

    The Canadian Government placed a complete ban on the use of DDT pesticides, effective 1 January 1971.

  50. November 07, 1970


    Pierre-Laporte Bridge Opens

    The Pierre- Laporte Bridge, over the St Lawrence River, was opened. The bridge originally was to be named the Frontenac Bridge, but it was changed to honour Laporte, Québec minister of labour and immigration, following his murder during the October Crisis.

  51. February 10, 1971


    Air Pollution Fine Set

    The federal Parliament set fines of up to $200 000 for air pollution.

  52. April 05, 1971


    First CANDU

    Gentilly nuclear power plant opened in Québec, the world's first nuclear plant with a reactor fuelled by natural uranium and cooled by ordinary water (the CANDU system).

  53. April 29, 1971


    James Bay Project

    Premier Robert Bourassa announced the development of the James Bay project.

  54. November 02, 1971

    Gerhard Herzberg, physicist, Nobel laureate


    Herzberg Wins Nobel Prize

    Gerhard Herzberg was awarded the Nobel Prize for chemistry for his contributions to the knowledge of electronic structure.

  55. February 25, 1972


    Pickering Station Opened

    The Pickering nuclear power plant officially opened, the largest single electricity producer in the world.

  56. November 09, 1972


    Anik A-1 Launched

    Canada launched the world's first geostationary domestic satellite, Anik A-1

  57. April 20, 1973


    Anik A-2 Launched

    The telecommunications satellite Anik A-2 was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla. With its launch, Canada became the first country in the world to employ satellites for domestic communications.

  58. December 07, 1973


    CANDU Deal with South Korea

    Canada sold a CANDU reactor to South Korea.

  59. May 18, 1974


    India Detonates Nuclear Device

    India detonated a nuclear device using Canadian materials.

  60. May 22, 1974


    Canada Suspends Nuclear Exports

    The Canadian government suspended shipments of all nuclear equipment and materials to India, after India's detonation of a nuclear device.

  61. April 01, 1975


    Weather Offices Use Celsius

    Weather offices in Canada first used celsius to report temperatures. On September 1, metric was first used for rainfall and snowfall.

  62. May 01, 1975


    Anik A-3 Launched

    Communications satellite Anik A-3 was launched.

  63. January 24, 1978


    Cosmos 954 Falls

    Soviet satellite Cosmos 954 plunged into the atmosphere over northern Canada, spreading debris.

  64. November 08, 1978


    Challenger Flies for First Time

    The Canadair Challenger executive jet flew for the first time.

  65. March 05, 1979


    Voyager 1 Encounters Jupiter

    The space probe Voyager 1 made its closest encounter with Jupiter before moving on to Saturn.

  66. June 05, 1980


    First AIDS-related Deaths

    The US Centers for Disease Control reported 5 cases of pneumonia, which within a year were shown to be related to AIDS. By 1982, some 1600 cases had been reported worldwide.

  67. November 13, 1981



    Canadarm Launched into Space

    The Canadian-made Shuttle Remote Manipulator System (RMS), the Canadarm, was launched into space for the first time. It was carried aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia on mission STS-2, the second space shuttle. It performed well, exceeding all design goals and was declared operational one year later.

  68. August 16, 1982


    Anik-D Launched

    Anik D-1 was launched, replacing the aging Anik A and B satellites. Anik D-1 was the first commercial satellite built by a Canadian prime contractor, Spar Aerospace Limited.

  69. October 05, 1984

    Marc Garneau, astronaut


    Marc Garneau Enters Space

    Marc Garneau was the first Canadian astronaut to enter space, during the 41-G mission of the American space shuttle Challenger.

  70. January 30, 1985


    New Metric Policy

    The federal government unveiled a new metric policy under which businesses would be allowed to sell and advertise food, gasoline and home furnishings in imperial measurements in addition to the mandatory metric units.

  71. September 01, 1985

    Wreckage of the RMS Titanic


    Titanic Wreck Found

    A US-led expedition discovered the wreck of the Titanic 590 km southeast of Newfoundland at a depth of 3,810 m.

  72. September 25, 1985


    Tyrrell Museum Opens

    Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed officially opened the $30-million Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology at Drumheller.

  73. January 28, 1986


    Challenger Explodes

    The space shuttle Challenger exploded soon after takeoff, killing 7 astronauts.

  74. December 08, 1986


    John Polanyi Shares Nobel

    John Polanyi shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Dudley Herschenbach and Yuan T. Lee.

  75. August 25, 1989


    Voyager I Reaches Neptune

    The US space probe Voyager I reached Neptune. Its pictures of Triton, Neptune's moon, revealed the existence of 2 additional moons.

  76. April 24, 1990


    NASA Launches Hubble

    NASA put the Hubble telescope into orbit. A flawed mirror and other defects were corrected in space in December 1993 by astronauts.

  77. October 13, 1993


    Smith Wins Nobel Prize

    Michael Smith won the Nobel Prize in chemistry for his research on site-directed mutagenesis.

  78. July 16, 1994



    Comet Collides with Jupiter

    Fragments of the comet Shoemaker-Levy collided with the planet Jupiter.

  79. October 24, 1995


    New Emission Standards

    The federal government and the provinces agreed that by the year 2001 all new cars sold in Canada must meet strict air pollution emission standards.

  80. December 08, 1995


    Galileo Reaches Jupiter

    After 6 years and a 3.7 billion km journey, the space probe Galileo reached Jupiter.

  81. August 12, 1997


    Nuclear Reactors Shut Down

    Ontario Hydro, North America's largest electric utility, announced that it would shut down the 7 oldest of its 19 nuclear reactors: 3 at the Bruce facility on lake Huron and 4 at Pickering on lake Ontario.

  82. December 17, 1997


    New Pictures of Dying Stars

    The Hubble Space Telescope showed images of the dying phases of stars in unprecedented detail, showing the expansion into red giants.

  83. April 21, 1998



    Formation of Planets Discovered

    Astronomers announced that they had observed evidence of the early formation of a group of planets, similar to our own solar system, around a young sun 220 light years away.

  84. April 15, 1999


    New Solar System Found

    Astronomers announced that they had discovered another solar system of multiple planets orbiting a star, some 44 light years away.

  85. April 23, 1999


    New Human Ancestor Found

    Paleontologists announced that they had discovered a fossil skull in Ethiopia that belonged to a previously unknown species of human ancestor.

  86. May 27, 1999

    Payette, Julie


    Julie Payette in Space

    Canadian astronaut Julie Payette took part in a space shuttle mission. She and a co-worker repaired faulty parts in the Russian space station Zarya's battery pack.

  87. January 01, 2000


    Millennium Celebrations

    The arrival of the year 2000 saw little technological disruption or acts of terrorism. The Y2K (Millennium) bug caused only minor computer problems.

  88. February 01, 2003


    Shuttle Columbia Disaster

    Space shuttle Columbia disintegrated over Tyler, Texas, killing all seven people on board, including the first Israeli astronaut, Ilan Ramon, and Kalpana Chawla of India. First clues pointed to failure of the heat-shielding tiles.

  89. March 13, 2013

    Chris Hadfield


    Hadfield Becomes ISS Commander

    Astronaut Chris Hadfield became the first Canadian commander of the International Space Station (ISS), succeeding astronaut Kevin Ford. A brief ceremony aboard the ISS included a broadcast of O Canada.

  90. August 07, 2013


    Death of Tony Pawson

    World-renowned researcher, Tony Pawson, whose discovery about how cells communicate and interact with each other transformed scientists' fundamental understanding of cancer and many other diseases, died in Toronto.

  91. August 07, 2015


    Death of Frances Kelsey

    Frances Kelsey, the Canadian doctor hailed as a hero for withholding approval of the drug thalidomide in the United States, died in London, ON, at age 101. While employed at the US Food and Drug Administration in the early 1960s, Kelsey likely saved thousands of American children from severe deformities and disabilities by refusing to approve the drug for sale, despite the fact that it was already being prescribed in Europe and Canada. Her suspicions were confirmed in 1961, when reports emerged of birth defects among children born to women who had taken thalidomide during pregnancy.

  92. September 19, 2015


    Canadian Team Sets Record Speed for Human-Powered Vehicle

    A team of Canadian engineers set a new world record for the fastest human-powered vehicle at an annual competition in Battle Mountain, Nevada, attaining a speed of 139.45 kilometres per hour. The vehicle, Eta a high-efficiency recumbent bicycle enclosed in a carbon-fibre shell is the work of Aerovelo, a company founded by University of Toronto alumni Todd Reichert and Cameron Robertson. Reichert pedalled the bike to a world record on 17 September 2015 and subsequently broke his own record twice to achieve the final speed.

  93. May 18, 2016

    Canadian Museum of Nature


    New Species of Dinosaur Identified

    Paleontologists at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa announced that bones discovered a decade earlier in Montana are those of previously unknown species of dinosaur related to the triceratops. Nicknamed Judith, the Spiclypeus shipporum specimen now belongs to the museum’s world-class collection of horned dinosaur fossils.

  94. July 22, 2016


    Death of Ursula Franklin

    Physicist Ursula Franklin, who pioneered the development of archaeometry (the application of modern techniques of materials analysis to archaeology), died in Toronto, Ontario, at age 94.

  95. April 11, 2017


    Death of Dr. Mark Wainberg

    Montreal-born molecular biologist Dr. Mark Wainberg, a renowned HIV/AIDS researcher and activist, died at the age of 71. In 1989, Wainberg discovered that the antiviral drug 3TC slowed the replication of HIV in the body — a breakthrough in the development of antiretroviral therapy.

  96. May 18, 2017


    Death of Michael Bliss

    Historian Michael Bliss died in Toronto, Ontario. One of Canada’s leading historians, Bliss wrote numerous prize-winning books on Canadian and medical history, including The Discovery of Insulin and William Osler: A Life in Medicine. He received many career honours, including the Order of Canada, honorary degrees from six universities and honorary fellowship in the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. For many years he was in demand as a lecturer, speaker and public intellectual in North America and Europe.

  97. September 08, 2017

    Avro Arrow


    Avro Arrow Model Found in Lake Ontario

    The Raise the Arrow expedition announced that it discovered an Avro Arrow test model at the bottom of Lake Ontario. Images of the find show a jet covered in zebra mussels, which researchers planned to remove to discover more about the plane. The Malton, Ontario-based Arrow project began in the postwar years with the goal of creating one of the world’s fastest and most advanced interceptor aircraft, but it was controversially cancelled in 1959.

  98. September 26, 2017


    Mona Nemer Named Canada’s Chief Scientist

    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed Mona Nemer, a pioneering heart researcher at the University of Ottawa, to the role of chief science advisor. The position involves promoting advancements in the sciences that will benefit Canadians, providing the government with impartial scientific advice, and reporting to the prime minister and the minister of health on the state of federal government science.

  99. January 16, 2019


    BC Fossils Help Solve Evolutionary Riddle

    The fossilized soft tissue of agnostids found in the 500-million-year-old Burgess Shale deposit helped researchers prove a connection between the bug-like creatures and trilobites, adding a new branch to the evolutionary tree of life.

  100. April 06, 2021



    300-Million-Year-Old Fossil Found in New Brunswick

    Halifax high school students and amateur paleontologists Rowan Norrad and Luke Allen discovered a 300-million-year-old fossilized dragonfly wing near Grand Lake, New Brunswick. The length of the wing, about 10 cm, indicated a likely wingspan of 25 cm — much larger than contemporary dragonflies. The fossil was sent to the National Museum of Natural History in Paris for further analysis.