100 years of innovation for Canada

His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada

Sgt Ronald Duchesne (photographer), Rideau Hall © Her Majesty The Queen in Right of Canada represented by the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General, 2015

The 100th anniversary of the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) is a wonderful opportunity not only to reflect upon the achievements of this great organization, but also to remind ourselves of how far we have come as a country and what a special place it is.

The NRC has made tremendous contributions to the development of science and innovation in Canada and, through these powerful instruments, it has helped shape our lives today and the world around us.

The stories you will read in the following pages speak to our capacity to collaborate towards a common goal, to harness curiosity and to serve humanity. I believe that this capacity is accessed when you build a smart, caring country overall—one that looks outward with confidence and openness.

For over 100 years, the people of the NRC have epitomized this attitude and this spirit, and have helped to position our country to pursue the opportunities and confront the challenges of the future.

David Johnston

Helping to build a nation

If the stories in this book carry one message, it is that Canadians can innovate, can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the best in the world and can have an enormous influence when they engage with common purpose. Throughout its 100-year history, the NRC has worked with a diversity of collaborators to face challenges and explore the possibilities they present—from economic opportunities to critical, societal needs—all the while focused on the well-being of Canadians.

In the 1920s and '30s, support for research on rust-resistant wheat, rail and air transportation, and concrete for urban infrastructure helped Canada grow and confront the demands of a northern climate. When war struck, the NRC protected Canadian troops with advances in radar technology, aviation inventions such as the G-suit and standardized measurement for munitions, which prevented mishaps and accidents from misfires.

At war's end, the launch of new research programs would improve the robustness of Canada's National Building Code and ensure returning service men and women had safe and affordable homes to raise their families. Later, peaceful pursuits in atomic energy produced systems to generate electricity and treat cancer. Other breakthroughs included the cardiac pacemaker, electric wheelchair and aids for the visually impaired, improving the quality of life for millions of people around the world.

In the decades to follow, NRC innovations would improve information and communications technologies, enhance visual and audio-based entertainment and introduce the world to computer animation. The NRC's 3D imaging technologies would assist in the preservation of priceless works of art such as Da Vinci's Mona Lisa and be used in the creation of special effects in movies like The Matrix.

The NRC's scientific advances reached far beyond this nation's borders. Astrophysicists recorded high-precision images using Canadian telescopes, built vital instrumentation for international observatories, and expanded our knowledge about distant galaxies and the nature of the universe. When Canada entered the space age, the NRC played a leading role by managing Canada's core space science program, assembling the first Canadian astronaut team and overseeing the Canadarm project.

Through the years, the NRC has continued to provide innovations in everything from aerospace and environmental technologies to medical breakthroughs. The NRC marked an aviation milestone in 2012 when it flew the first civil jet powered by unblended biofuel. And recent developments in robotics now make it possible for doctors to practice complicated procedures using virtual reality before performing them live.

Much of Canada's science and technology infrastructure has its roots in the NRC. NRC offshoots include the Canadian Space Agency, Atomic Energy Canada Ltd., Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Defence Research and Development Canada, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

The NRC has nurtured industrial enterprises too—not only through its laboratories and research services but, for nearly 70 years, mainly through its Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP), which has provided tens of thousands of Canadian firms with technical resources, financial assistance and access to information networks.

In all of these achievements, the NRC's greatest asset has been its people. The organization has been home to many of the world's most eminent scientists, including 11 Nobel Laureates who spent time or parts of their careers in NRC laboratories, as well as engineers, technicians and support specialists, who share a common commitment to serving Canada through science and technology. Today, the NRC employs over 3 600 dedicated individuals working in communities across the country, helping to advance innovation in sectors that range from ocean engineering and construction to aerospace, advanced physics and biotechnology.

The following pages capture remarkable snapshots from the NRC's rich history, chronicling 100 years of science and innovation across 5 distinct eras. Many advances are now considered landmarks in Canada's scientific heritage. Others may be less well known, yet they have all significantly affected the world around us. These stories of the NRC's research and its people reflect the personality, spirit, creativity and determination of a great Canadian treasure.

Tom Jenkins

Iain Stewart

100 Years of Innovation for Canada (PDF, 57 MB)
Cat. No: NR16-128/2016E-PDF
ISBN: 978-0-660-06686-8

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