Growing with a nation – a photo history of Canada's National Research Council, 1916-2016


War and turbulent times

Canada's National Research Council was established during a period characterized by two world wars and a booming wheat exporting economy – until it bottomed out during the Depression. Canada's heavy military role during the wars transformed its society and its place in the world. Early research at NRC is focused on military and agricultural security as well as developing Canada's natural resources.

Automatic sights for coastal defence guns and the first installation of a coastal radar defense system in North America, called the "Night Watchman" established at Halifax.

Redesign of the steam locomotive made it more efficient and aerodynamic to prevent smoke from obscuring visibility

Atomic energy research – The ZEEP (Zero Energy Experimental Pile) reactor was the first reactor in Canada, and one of the first in the world, to use heavy water

Invention of the anti-gravity suit prevented pilots from passing out on dangerous missions

The development of 30 different types of radar, laid the foundation for technology‐based industries in the post‐war era

"Pidgeon Process" for mining magnesium, still in use today

Concrete and cement research to ensure the safety of Canada's infrastructure


Post-war boom

The post-war baby boom and government social and economic policies gave rise to unprecedented prosperity in Canada. NRC returned to civilian research and focused on construction, manufacturing and health technologies that improved the livelihood of all, including returning veterans.

Cobalt-60 Bomb established Canada as the early leader in nuclear medicine for the treatment of cancer

Division of Building Research established to oversee Canada’s national construction codes.

Precision time-keeping – atomic clocks and CBC's familiar sounding long dash

Invention of the World's first pacemaker

World's first electric wheelchair

Crash Position Indicator and other aviation firsts

Hemoglobin Research


An age of expansion

As living standards improved, the first baby‐boomers came of age forming a massive youth movement that challenged the status quo. Canada raised a new flag and the country shined in the world spotlight with Expo '67. NRC contributed to fundamental science and astronomy, helped to grow universities, and created several offshoot entities such as the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and Atomic Energy of Canada, Ltd. It also created innovations for arts and entertainment, renewable energy and crime‐fighting.

World-class observatories in Canada and around the globe

Computer animation, which paved the way for a billion dollar Canadian industry

Music industry firsts, such as the invention of the multi-track tape recorder by Hugh Le Caine, inventor of the first electronic synthesizer called the sackbut and 21 other musical innovations

Recruitment of Canada's first astronaut team

Design of the Canadarm for NASA's space shuttle program

First colour standards for a national flag – a consistent fade-resistant shade of red from among 500,000 variations

Bomb-sniffing technologies


Global economic uncertainty

As the earlier economic boom unraveled with two recessionary periods, free trade with the US, globalism and the explosion of computer technology helped define Canada. NRC strengthened its ties to industry by creating sector‐based institutes around aerospace, ICT, biotechnology, nanotechnology, marine infrastructure, industrial and chemical processes, ground transportation, and more. NRC's Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP) became increasingly important in supporting Canada's small and medium‐sized enterprises.

Vaccine development – Harold Jennings created a Meningococcal C vaccine that literally saved the lives of thousands of children

Building fire safety for the construction industry

State-of-the-art 3D laser imaging technology revealed the secrets of the Mona Lisa smile and the facial features of an Egyptian mummy

Support for first responder safety – lightweight armour for Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) protection in "bomb disposal suits"

Anti-counterfeiting technologies

Aerospace technologies for air defence systems, civilian unmanned aircraft, icing risk-reduction, and more

2013 and beyond

A changing World paradigm

Today, Canada faces exponential competition stemming from intense globalization and the economic rise of multiple emerging markets. Climate change, sustainable development in the North, a shrinking manufacturing sector and an aging population are some of Canada's latest challenges. Once again, NRC has adapted by transforming itself into an engine for industrial innovation to help address critical issues facing Canadians. With NRC's help, Canadian businesses will develop game changing technologies to solve these challenges well into the future.

First Flight for biofuel powered engines on civilian aircraft

Ice forecasting in Canada's Arctic

Brain surgery with the help of virtual reality

Canadian wheat improvement for the reduction of wheat losses due to drought, heat, cold stress and disease

Vaccine research – Cancer, Hepatitis C and Alzheimer's Disease

Factories of the Future Program – Canadian manufacturers will develop revolutionary technologies for the factory floor aimed at reducing manufacturing and design costs and increasing production efficiencies

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