Canada Day is right around the corner and since we are at the halfway mark of our five-part journey, it’s time to get even more serious about the effects of Canadian innovations. This week we broaden our scope to see how Canadian innovation has shaped culture in the world around us, and these five innovations are nothing to scoff at--these ideas, inventions, and stories have played an incredible role in our world.
Standard Time most likely seems like common sense to you, but it was not long ago that these time zones did not exist. The concept of synchronizing clocks based on geographical location was first proposed by Sir Sandford Fleming, KCMG in the mid-1800’s after he immigrated to colonial Canada. Fleming was an engineer and inventor that left Canada with many innovations like the first Canadian postage stamp, but his greatest impact was almost certainly Standard Time. Time zones are a cultural norm throughout the entire world; in fact, if you think about it, Standard Time could be considered one of the earliest world-wide negotiations and agreements. Now, if only, Canada can come together to find a solution to “jet-lag”...
Who could have imagined that a man in red and blue tights would go on to become one of the most recognizable cultural icons the world-over?! Before Superman was leading DC Comics and box office sales he was being drawn by a Canadian highschooler. Joe Shuster, born in Toronto in 1914, moved to Cleveland, Ohio as a teenager. It was in high school that he began to collaborate with Jerry Siegel to illustrate stories about the “Man of Steel”. Later on, in 1938, Shuster and Siegel sold Superman to what is known today as DC Comics. Superman premiered in Action Comics #1 in June 1938 and has gone on to be presumably the most internationally recognizable superhero. It doesn’t take a superpower like leaping over skyscrapers to recognize that without Canadian innovation the world of comic books just wouldn’t be the same!
While Plexiglass in name is attributed to the company Rohm & Haas, it would not exist without the innovative mind of British Columbia raised William Chalmers. Like everything else on this list, Plexiglass has become more than a simple invention that replaces glass. Plexiglass is so versatile that it is used in applications ranging from fish tanks to medical implants to art and architecture! In fact, Plexiglass gave way to entire new artform, which is gaining in popularity worldwide: resin casting. Incredibly, we recently learned of one individual who uses this resin, based on plexiglass, to make art out of pizza. So though certainly can’t claim Pizza itself, Canadian innovation certainly played a role in helping at least one piece of pizza last forever.
If you don’t think Trivial Pursuit is a cultural phenomenon, here are some quick facts to set you straight. Since its inception by Chris Haney and Scott Abbott in December 1979, Trivial Pursuit has sold over 100 million copies in 26 countries and 17 different languages. With over 50 editions of the game, there is likely a version for everyone. There have been multiple television show spin-offs based on the game and it is considered one of the most famous board games of all time, worldwide. To think, this innovation came to life when these two Canadian editors ran out of Scrabble pieces in Niagara, spurring them to invent their own game to pass the time.
How many times have you forgotten to pull old baggage tags off your luggage before traveling? They might be a bit of a nuisance from time to time, but thanks to John Michael Lyons of Moncton, New Brunswick in 1882, local and international travel was changed for the better. It may be easy to overlook something as simple as a small tag to track your belongings in transit, but if you consider how this invention has helped so many get around the world so effectively, the scale of its’ impact is staggering. Sometimes, it’s the simplest of innovations that have the greatest impact.
We hope your Canadian pride is ever-growing, and we will soon return with part four, diving into Canadian Innovation in medicine! Until then, as you travel the world of time zones with your baggage tags, be sure to play a game of Trivial Pursuit or catch up on the latest Superman on the way.
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