Definitions of technology have ranged from "everything we learn" to "the application of science to the solution of industrial problems." A more useful definition might be "technology is the skills, tools and machines used by members of a society to convert material objects [e.g., natural RESOURCES] into products useful to themselves." Technologies affect and are affected by the society that uses them, and the importance of a technological development can only be evaluated after consideration of a variety of social and technical factors. Technological developments depend upon necessary pre-existing technology as well as a favourable political or economic climate.

Native Technology

The technologies by which the native people adapted to the regions of Canada, from the Great Lakes to the Far North, depended greatly on geographical conditions and local resources. Notable achievements include the birchbark CANOE, the SNOWSHOE, the TIPI, the IGLOO after European settlement began, Canada still had a relatively sparse population, and because of its colonial status was primarily a source of raw materials and an importer of manufactured goods and technology (see MERCANTILISM). MANUFACTURING remained proportionally smaller in Canada than in Europe or the US until WWI, and most ENGINEERING achievements to that time involved the solution of special problems associated with settlement in a cold climate, TRANSPORTATION over long distances and to remote areas, or extraction of natural resources.

The Pioneer Period (1600-1850)

The first period, extending from the arrival of the first Europeans to the beginning of the RAILWAY age, covers the settlement of Canada as a European colony. Generally the technologies practised were transplanted directly from Europe and with minor changes were those in use since the medieval period. Houses were built using timber frames; canal locks had mitre gates and cut-stone chambers; and mines were developed with brute force and black powder. Such modifications as were made reflected the efforts of settlers to adjust to Canadian GEOGRAPHY, climate and natural resources, and to native technologies. They paralleled political and social adjustments experienced by the young colony.

Developmental Period (1850-1900)

Sweeping changes in machines, materials and power moved engineering from the Middle Ages to the Machine Age in these 50 years. In the 1850s, political as well as economic forces promoted the growth of railways, while steam engines and new MACHINERY began to transform mill and farm. Confederation, 1867, brought about the Intercolonial Ry, and eventually the NATIONAL POLICY, the Patent Act, the CANADIAN PACIFIC RY and the opening of the PRAIRIE WEST. The Atlantic provinces saw the end of the sailing ship, and the fishing industry was expanded by refrigeration and use of the steamship. Domestic manufacturing became established on a modest scale, encouraged by the National Policy.

Early Modern Period (1900-40)

The first decade of the century brought unparalleled agricultural development and prosperity, and appeared to mark the maturation of the national economy. The harnessing of Niagara (1895) began a new industrial revolution based largely on electricity and related CHEMICAL INDUSTRIES. WWI was a proving ground for the internal combustion engine in vehicles and aircraft. WWI developments, applied to BUSH FLYING, helped open the Canadian North. The gasoline engine found many uses after the war, and the diesel engine became popular in public transportation. Finally, RADIO, TELEVISION and aircraft allowed Canadians to communicate more effectively.

Modern Period (1940-present)

The modern period of technology was ushered in by WWII. Canada's participation placed enormous demands on primary and secondary industries, transport and manpower. By 1945 farms, mines, shipyards and factories were highly mechanized and as efficient as any in the world. The war accelerated the development of young industries (eg, aluminum products) and brought about entirely new industries (eg, those centred around uranium).


During WWII Canadian industry expanded rapidly to produce munitions. This expansion stimulated the manufacture of tools, electrical apparatus, and chemicals and materials (eg, synthetic rubber). Heavy industries, eg, ship and aircraft manufacture, were vital to the war effort. The creation of atomic weapons by the US ushered in the field of NUCLEAR POWER, which stimulated Canada's uranium mining. By the end of the war, Canada had truly become industrialized: more people worked in secondary (ie, manufacturing) industry than on the farms or in the forests, and the output of secondary industry exceeded that of primary industry by any system of measurement. The postwar challenge was to convert this manufacturing potential to consumer goods, eg, in the Canadian automotive industry (mainly as a subsidiary of giant US corporations), and the rapid expansion of mining and agricultural equipment manufacture.


A further challenge was to provide the energy necessary to sustain industry and to fuel public and private transportation. More hydroelectric sites were developed in BC, Ontario, Québec and Manitoba. Thermoelectric stations were built in the Maritimes and the Prairie provinces. Ontario opened the first nuclear-powered thermal station, at Rolphton in 1962. Natural-gas exploration continued in Alberta and Saskatchewan; the huge LEDUC oil field was discovered in 1947. The oil industry became very complex, producing gasoline, diesel and heating fuels, and heavy oils for lubrication, and developing the huge PETROCHEMICAL INDUSTRY with its hundreds of by-products. Sarnia and Montréal became centres of the petrochemical industries, although gradually some industry shifted closer to the oil fields.

Mining and Metallurgy

Chemical technology helped solve the metallurgical problems of the expanding mining industry. Plants producing war explosives were altered to produce mining and construction explosives. Mining technology was also in great demand after the war. Oil exploration revealed one of the world's largest deposits of POTASH in Saskatchewan. The extraction of this deep-lying mineral was a great challenge. The need to develop new sources of iron became urgent as US mines began to be depleted. Huge projects at Steep Rock, Ont, and in Labrador required the most modern, large-scale, earth-moving equipment, as well as hydroelectric power to bring the ore to steel mills in Hamilton and the US. The gold-mining industry that had supported Canada through 2 world wars was waning and the major postwar effort was directed to base metals and coal.


One of the largest engineering projects in Canada was the construction of the ST LAWRENCE SEAWAY, undertaken in conjunction with the US. This enterprise not only opened the upper Great Lakes to foreign and domestic saltwater ships, but also facilitated shipment of iron ore from Labrador to steel mills on the shores of Lks Ontario and Erie, as well as providing additional hydroelectric supplies.

Canada's wartime aircraft industry would have disappeared in competition with industries in other nations. Its demise was almost assured when the federal government cancelled the AVRO ARROW project. The cancellation of the most advanced military aircraft of its kind has been considered a great setback to the development of technology in Canada, although the Canadian aircraft industry continued to develop innovative STOL (short-take-off-and-landing) aircraft, such as the DE HAVILLAND OTTER and DE HAVILLAND DASH-7.

Postwar shipbuilding dwindled until only a few LAKE CARRIERS and saltwater fishing boats were produced. Canadian shipyards have already produced some of the most advanced ICEBREAKERS and, with increased exploration for oil, gas and minerals in the Arctic, this technology has great potential.

Agriculture and Forestry

Powerful and sophisticated machinery and new chemicals have made Canadian farmers among the most productive in the world. New, large-scale technologies of cutting and hauling were introduced into forestry, particularly in BC, as loggers pushed farther into the mountains. Canadian paper mills now possess new, high-speed machinery that supplies much of the world's newsprint.

Canada has long depended on imported technology to fuel its economic development and Canadian INVENTORS AND INNOVATIONS have seldom received the kind of support necessary for long-term developments. Canada's widely dispersed population, its dependence on foreign investment and resource exploitation and its tradition of regional political independence have made the task of formulating a coherent industrial strategy very difficult. Although Canadian engineers lead the world in the use of computers for communication, and although dramatic advances in COMMUNICATIONS IN THE NORTH have taken place, Canada cannot compete with foreign producers of ELECTRONIC and domestic electrical equipment. Without reliable access to HIGH TECHNOLOGY there is the danger that secondary industries will not be competitive and that Canada may revert to its traditional role as supplier of raw materials.



Mechanization of the prairie farm continued through the boom of 1901 to 1911. The gasoline tractor replaced the steam tractor during WWI and power takeoff, pneumatic tires and hydraulic-lifting equipment were developed in the 1920s. Many cultivating and harvesting machines were developed, eg, row cultivators for tobacco and corn crops and the Sylvester auto-thresher that appeared in western Canada. New strains of early maturing wheat (eg, MARQUIS, Garnet, Reward) permitted farming farther N on the prairies.

The new technologies of pasteurization, refrigeration and the commercial canning of meat, vegetables and fruit, as well as condensed milk and processed cheese, helped provide food to growing urban areas after the war. In 1900 farming was still mainly traditional, but by the end of WWII it was becoming a highly mechanized industry.


Fishing in the Maritime provinces underwent great changes. Corporate amalgamations provided more capital for technological development and, by 1908, many steamships were converted to trawlers, as were naval minesweepers after WWI. The traditional schooner began to disappear. Improved refrigeration, transportation and communication provided better facilities for handling fresh fish. Freezing of bait fish had been introduced in the 1890s, but the freezing of fresh fish was developed in the Great Lakes fisheries at the turn of the century. The practice was adopted on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, although the process gave only short-term preservation.

In 1929 the American Clarence Birdseye demonstrated that quick-freezing produced a better product, and the greater use of freezers by retailers greatly changed marketing procedures. Finally the introduction of the internal combustion engine to small craft gave fishermen increased mobility.


The success of the CPR encouraged 2 competitors, the GRAND TRUNK PACIFIC and the CANADIAN NORTHERN, to build transcontinental lines. The Temiskaming and Northern Ontario Railway (ONTARIO NORTHLAND) was constructed from North Bay, Ont, to James Bay (1903-31). The HUDSON BAY RY (1909-29) was built to open another saltwater port, at Churchill, Man, to prairie grain. Many branch lines were started into the PEACE RIVER LOWLAND.

Canals on the St Lawrence at Cornwall and Williamsburg, Ont, and Beauharnois, Qué, were enlarged (1900-03). A final effort was made to complete the Trent Canal between 1895 and 1920, when the various sections were linked together. The PETERBOROUGH lift lock, designed by R.B. Rogers, was the largest of its kind in the world and an outstanding engineering achievement. In 1910 Manitoba's only canal lock was completed on the Red R at St Andrews. The increased size and number of ships on the Great Lakes made the New Welland Canal obsolete and a larger, more direct canal, called the Welland Ship Canal, was started in 1913, interrupted by the war and officially opened in 1932.

Cars and trucks passed from being curiosities to necessities. In the 1920s, provincial departments of highways were given authority to take over major trunk roads and to plan and supervise road planning and construction at all levels within the province.

The building of highways was facilitated by a new generation of trucks and trawler tractors, adapted for road construction. Public transport was vital to the growing cities: horse-drawn buses had been replaced by electric STREET RAILWAYS in 46 Canadian cities by the 1920s. The first motor buses were also appearing; a diesel bus was used in Montréal as early as 1932.

The flight of the SILVER DART (at Baddeck, NS, in 1909) was the first in the British Empire. Canadian pilots made major contributions to the war effort in WWI and returned home eager to fly. Surplus military aircraft were quickly adapted to peacetime tasks, often associated with lumbering and mining in northern areas. In 1919 a federal government agency, the Associate Air Research Committee, was established to foster aeronautical research in Canada.

In 1927 W.R. TURNBULL perfected the electrically operated variable-pitch propeller, which was adopted around the world. The most famous of a new generation of bush planes was the NOORDUYN NORSEMAN, which was designed by Robert Noorduyn after he consulted with a large number of active pilots in 1935. During the GREAT DEPRESSION, one of the government's most successful, innovative, make-work programs involved building a string of AIRPORTS across the country (see AVIATION).


The building of the Ontario Northland Ry led prospectors to the huge deposits of silver at Cobalt, then gold at Timmins and Kirkland Lk. These mines financed and encouraged other ventures, eg, the mines at Rouyn, Qué, and Flin Flon, Man. They also pioneered many of the underground hard-rock mining practices used throughout the rest of Canada. The Precambrian Shield was thoroughly examined by geologists and prospectors, who discovered many other precious- and base-metal deposits. The BC coalfields expanded with the railways and deposits of natural gas were tapped in southern Alberta.

Metallurgists were forced to keep up with this expansion. New processes, varying from mine to mine, were needed for the extraction and refinement of ore. In 1903 Bett's electrolytic process was installed at the refinery in Trail, BC, to refine the lead content of the ore. In 1911 the first basic lined converters in Canada were used to smelt copper matte at Copper Cliff. International Nickel built a new electrolytic refining plant at Port Colborne, Ont, in 1916 to take advantage of the cheap electrical power available. Part of the solution to the problem in the Flin Flon smelter was the introduction of a suspended magnesite furnace arc in 1930.

Electricity was fundamental to many of these processes. For example, in 1901, the manufacture of ALUMINUM and aluminum products began at Shawinigan, Qué. This valuable industry advanced rapidly almost from coast to coast because, although the ore was imported and many of the finished products were exported, the processing required huge amounts of electricity, available at several locations in Canada.


In Québec many rivers were tapped primarily to serve new mines and pulp and paper mills, eg, at Grand Falls, NB (1928), pulp and paper; Shawinigan (1902 on), pulp and paper, aluminum, industry; Saguenay Power at Isle-Maligne, Qué (1925), pulp and paper, aluminum; Quinze R, western Qué (1923), mining; Abitibi Canyon, northern Ont (1929-33), mining, pulp and paper; Island Falls, Churchill R, Sask (1930), mining; West Kootenay Power, Bonnington Falls, BC (1897 on), mining. Industries which had used steam or water power converted to electricity whenever feasible, especially when the technology of transmission over long distances developed.

The first long-distance transmission of electricity in Canada, and perhaps the British Empire, was carried out between the Batiscan R and Trois-Rivières, Qué, in 1897. The line was about 29 km long and carried 11 000 volts. Another new source of power, the internal-combustion engine, found many uses as a stationary power source for running pumps, saws, etc.


The AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY was added to the established and expanding industries related to railways and resource extraction. While dozens of cars were designed and built across Canada, only the McLaughlin really achieved success. Gordon McGregor, manager of the Walkerville Wagons Works, in Windsor, Ont, established the FORD MOTOR COMPANY OF CANADA in 1904. Production began almost immediately using Ford's famous assembly-line process, probably the first use in Canada. TEXTILE production, primarily woolens, continued in eastern Ontario and southern Québec, mostly using imported technology and raw material. Most new factories began employing the latest machine tools and electrical equipment, particularly during the serious labour shortages of the war.

US investment in Canada increased steadily after the American Civil War and by WWI had eclipsed British investment. As American investment was mostly equity investment, American ownership of Canadian companies rose from approximately 100 companies in 1900 to 1350 companies in 1934. Most advanced technology was imported directly from the US and many large manufacturers were subsidiaries of US companies (see FOREIGN INVESTMENT).


Starting in the early 20th century, steam "donkey" engines powered winches that dragged the huge logs out of the BC forests in a system called "ground leading." Eventually, "high leading" replaced the process because of greater efficiency. The first power saws appeared in 1939 but were so heavy and unreliable that they had to be operated by 2 men. The one-man light chain saw appeared after WWII.


The skyscraper was pioneered in Chicago and New York, but tall buildings with steel skeletons soon appeared in Winnipeg (1904) and Toronto (1914), and when the federal Parliament Buildings were rebuilt (1916) a structural steel frame was used. Longer-span bridges were built, culminating in the QUÉBEC BRIDGE (1917). Toronto's Governor's Bridge (1923) is said to be the world's first welded-steel bridge. In the 1920s reinforced concrete was used extensively in bridges in Peterborough, Calgary and Saskatoon. These bridges are among the most beautiful in Canada.

Industrial Chemistry

The rapid expansion of electrochemistry in the 20th century permitted the economical production of many chemicals. A Canadian, Thomas WILLSON, developed the first successful commercial process for manufacturing calcium carbide. The first plant was established at Merritton, Ont, in 1896. The Shawinigan Carbide Co was formed in 1901 but actual production of carbide did not start until 1904. The first contract sulphuric acid plant was established at Sulphide, Ont, in 1908.

The SALT deposits at Windsor, Ont, were used to produce a number of sodium and chlorine compounds, such as the electrolytic production of sodium carbonate in 1919. Liquid and gaseous chlorine was produced at Sandwich, Ont, in 1911 for water purification, bleaching of pulp and many other purposes. The electrolytic cell, used for many of these processes, was patented in Canada in 1908 by A.E. Gibbs. Another important technology was the manufacture of artificial fibres. The production of viscose rayon in Canada was started by the British firm Courtaulds in Cornwall, Ont, in 1925. The process used cellulose from wood pulp. In 1928 Canadian Celanese Ltd started to manufacture cellulose acetate rayon at Drummondville, Qué. Canadian Industries Ltd (CIL) began to manufacture transparent cellulose film at Shawinigan Falls in 1931.


Sanitation services improved as better sand filters cleansed city drinking water, but sewage treatment advanced slowly. Methods of decomposing sewage in tanks were adopted after 1910, and by 1916 the activated sludge process had been adopted by many cities. Some large cities disposed of garbage by incineration in high-temperature furnaces.


The early telephone was improved with better cable sheathing and instruments; the improved loading coil appeared in 1916. Vacuum-tube telephone repeaters (installed in 1917) improved long-distance telephony, making possible the TRANSCANADA TELEPHONE SYSTEM (formally opened in 1932). Dial telephones were first installed in Edmonton (1905), and during the 1920s and 1930s most urban areas of Ontario and Québec were converted.

Marconi established long-range, wireless telegraphy across the Atlantic in 1901, and in the 1920s the development of shortwave transmission vastly improved the signal. The first "wireless" (radio) broadcast was sent by a Canadian, Reginald FESSENDEN, in 1906 from a station in the US. In 1920 Marconi followed with the first broadcast in Canada, from Montréal. Commercial broadcasting progressed slowly as receiving sets became available, first in kit form, then preassembled. By 1927 Canadians could telephone Europe via the US, and by 1931 direct connections were possible. In 1925 a rudimentary form of telephotography (television) was established.

Technical Education

Engineering colleges were established at the western universities (1906-13). The engineering profession increased in numbers and prestige, and separate provincially chartered professional organizations were established in all provinces, except PEI, by 1923. Provincial associations were given the right to control entry into the profession, thus ensuring that only legally qualified engineers could practise in the provinces. This period witnessed the foundation of most of Canada's modern primary and secondary industries. A basic network of transportation existed across the country and the conquest of the Canadian Shield was almost complete.

The interdependence of technologies became more apparent as mining, electrical power, machine-tool factories, metallurgical and chemical industries were interconnected. Much of the impetus built up during and after WWI was lost during the Great Depression but revived after.


The earliest significant technology was associated with the FISHERIES. The international rivalry for the GRAND BANKS cod resource resulted in the first English and French settlements in Newfoundland and NS. These settlements were directly affected by existing fishing technology. The French and Portuguese salted their catch immediately and sailed for home without much contact with land (ie, the "green" fishery). English fishermen, on the other hand, did not have cheap supplies of salt and were forced to establish shore stations to dry their catch to preserve it for transportation to market (ie, the "dry" fishery). During the period, this basic technology changed very little, but it undoubtedly shaped the character of the people and led to establishment of the SHIPBUILDING industry for which Maritimers became world famous in the 1860s and 1870s.


The major technical problem facing all settlers was shelter. In the first urban areas, construction directly copied European methods; in rural areas it illustrated adaptations to local materials and conditions. Western European timber-frame construction, familiar to most colonists, was first used and adapted by the HABITANTS and ACADIANS. Wood, rather than masonry, was used to fill in walls. LOYALISTS, settling in the Maritimes and in Upper Canada, built houses of logs fastened together at the corners, an excellent way of using the abundant timber resource (see LOG HOUSES). Settlers on the treeless prairies near the Red R used heavy prairie sod (see SOD HOUSES) for their first shelters.


All pioneers practised some form of AGRICULTURE, which involved probably the most universal technology. Often Canadian agriculture was quite different from that practised in Europe. Agricultural technology, more than any other, is profoundly affected by local conditions of weather, soil, water and pests, and by land-tenure systems.

The Canadian farmer did not inherit a farm, he created one: Acadian farmers had to build dikes to protect their fields in the Fundy marshes; habitants or Loyalists in the St Lawrence Valley had to clear thick stands of huge trees with primitive tools and inadequate labour. Each group of 5 Loyalist families received a set of tools. Every 2 families received a crosscut saw and a whipsaw. The axes that were issued to the settlers were short-handled ship axes, rather than felling axes, and were almost useless because they would not hold an edge (see TOOLS, CARPENTRY). It often took many years for these pioneer farmers to clear a few hectares, while building shelters, cultivating crops and looking after animals.

Early farmers were fortunate in being able to learn from the Indians how to use indigenous animals, birds, fish and plants (see PLANTS, NATIVE USES). The culture of corn, beans and squash, a legacy of the Huron, was invaluable. Gradually, subsistence mixed farming was established. Heavy plows, called "French" plows, similar to the medieval 2-wheeled plow drawn by oxen, were first used by the Acadians and habitants. A smaller, rugged implement called the bull plow, with no wheels or coulter, was developed for maneuvering around stumps and rocks. Gradually, iron was substituted for wood, and frequently an all-iron "Scotch" plow was imported to Canada. Plows continued to be refined in shape and size until the steel-bladed plow was designed for the heavy sod of the prairies in the 1880s. Wherever farmers had access to markets, they sold surpluses and improved their farms with the proceeds. In the early 19th century, horse-drawn mowers were brought in from the US; local blacksmiths adopted the design and the Canadian AGRICULTURAL IMPLEMENTS INDUSTRY was born.


The 2 greatest chores facing settlers were grinding grain and sawing lumber. Champlain built a gristmill in 1607, probably the first mill of any kind in N America, at PORT-ROYAL on the Bay of Fundy. It was the right and responsibility of the seigneur in NEW FRANCE to build gristmills and sawmills, although they were seldom built as often as they were needed. Many early mills had simple saws and a run of stones using the same waterwheel. The arrival of the Loyalists in Upper Canada brought an immediate need for additional mills. Gristmills and sawmills were established in Kingston Mills on the Cataraqui R in 1783-84 and at Napanee in 1797. Both operations, which had been mechanized during the Middle Ages in Europe, could be fairly easily adapted to Canadian conditions. Most areas of eastern Canada had waterpower to drive mills; some relied on wind or tide. Eventually, mills were established to produce TEXTILES and to work iron. Mills were the nuclei of many small villages and introduced mechanical engineering to Canada.


Transportation has been the greatest challenge facing Canadian engineers. The rough country, scattered settlements and difficult climate posed problems seldom encountered in western Europe. The first solutions involved the importation from Europe of various forms of water transport which varied from full-rigged ships to smaller boats (oar and sail) that were normally carried on the larger ships. The French were quick to adopt the Indian birchbark canoe for travel on the inland waterways of the Canadian Shield. The Hudson's Bay Co developed the YORK BOAT for the journey inland from Hudson Bay. Early settlement was restricted to water routes and, as it spread westward along the St Lawrence past the Lachine rapids, these routes were improved by construction of CANALS, varying from tiny ditches transporting bateaux, to complex waterways, eg, the RIDEAU CANAL.

Shipbuilding began in the 17th century but was generally retarded by colonial restrictions until the mid-19th century, when shipyards in the Atlantic provinces and Québec City began to turn out larger and larger ships. Steamship technology, developed by Robert Fulton in the US, was quickly borrowed by engineers and businessmen on the St Lawrence and Great Lakes. John MOLSON financed the construction of the ACCOMMODATION in Montréal in 1809 to service the busy route to Québec City with a locally made steam engine. On 7 Sept 1816 the Frontenac, a comparatively large ship with a Boulton and Watt engine imported from England, was launched and became the first steamship to operate on the Great Lakes. These simple, low-pressure steam engines were not very powerful and used large quantities of fuel wood. In the second period of development the compound engine, which burned coal, increased the efficiency of these vessels so much that they virtually eliminated sailing ships.

Early land-vehicle transportation was limited almost exclusively to urban areas. Initially, construction of roads over the long distances between settlements was prohibitively expensive, even for dirt trails.

By the end of the pioneer period some arterial roads were completed. Cedar logs were used to build "corduroy" sections in swampy locations and gravel surfaces were laid where traffic was heaviest. In the 1840s Canadians even experimented with plank roads, using cheap forest products, but the winter ice and spring thaw left most of these roads a shambles. Only urban roads were paved, usually with crude cobblestones. The RED RIVER CART, drawn by oxen or horses, was used in the reasonably level and treeless prairies.


The TIMBER TRADE began along the major rivers of NB and spread to the St Lawrence and Ottawa rivers in the early 19th century. The single-bitted axes for felling, broad axes for squaring, and sleighs for hauling to water were borrowed almost unchanged from similar operations in eastern Baltic countries.


The first loads of ore hauled back to Europe by CARTIER and FROBISHER proved worthless and it was not until the discovery of gold in BC and the Klondike, and of silver and gold in the Canadian Shield in the late 19th century, that the great MINERAL RESOURCES of Canada were successfully exploited. COAL was mined sporadically in Cape Breton from the early 18th century. Bog IRON ORE was mined, smelted and processed at FORGES SAINT-MAURICE near Trois-Rivières (mining construction had begun in 1733 and the first iron was not poured until 1738) and at Normandale in Upper Canada. The GEOLOGICAL SURVEY OF CANADA (est 1842) played an enormous part in developing Canada's MINERAL wealth as field parties meticulously examined the country's rock outcroppings, interpreted their significance and plotted their results on maps, which led many prospectors to new deposits of economic minerals.


The pioneer period is characterized by the struggle to survive in a new and often hostile climate. Pioneers brought familiar technologies from Europe and the US, and skilfully adapted them to local conditions. Examples of such adaptations include the infilling of timber-frame houses by logs, rather than masonry; the use of local woods such as tamarack for shipbuilding; and the positioning of waterwheels inside mills to protect them from snow and ice. During this period, Canada was a water-oriented society, dependent on water for agriculture, fish, transportation and power. Many of the engineers who were to play a vital role in Canada's development received their first training on transportation projects. Although they were practical people with little theoretical education, they successfully undertook very large construction projects. Thomas KEEFER started his career on the Erie Canal and the WELLAND CANAL and went on to build railways, bridges and aqueducts. Sandford FLEMING worked as an engineer on the INTERCOLONIAL RY and later developed Standard TIME.


The advantages of railways for Canada were obvious: they were far more flexible than canals and did not freeze up in winter. When the GUARANTEE ACT (1849) offered financial help, many local railways were started in Upper and Lower Canada and the Atlantic provinces. While most of the expertise and rolling stock came originally from England, Canadian engineers did much of the construction. Canadian shops, which began by making spikes and rolling rails, moved on to building locomotives.

By 1860 most major communities in the Canadas were connected by the GRAND TRUNK RY, while the ST LAWRENCE AND ATLANTIC RAILROAD joined Montréal with Portland, Maine. Completion of the Intercolonial Ry in 1876 fulfilled a condition of Confederation by joining central Canada and NS and NB. Construction of the CPR (through the incredibly difficult rock and muskeg of the Precambrian Shield, across the prairies and through the Rockies) became one of Canada's greatest engineering feats. This task brought the highest levels of railway technology to Canada from the US (Canadian innovations were negligible), opened the vast grainfields of the prairies, encouraged immigration and literally tied the country together. Railway technology also had an effect on BRIDGE building. The tubular construction of the Victoria Bridge at Montréal (completed Dec 1859) was an engineering marvel of the day. Some of the world's first cantilever bridges were constructed over the Niagara and Fraser rivers in 1883 and over the Saint John R in 1884.

Canals were recognized as efficient carriers of bulk cargo, and as shipping increased on the Great Lakes improvements were needed. The Welland Canal was rerouted and deepened, from 2.7 m to 3.7 m, in 1883; by 1887 it was deepened again, to 4.3 m. A canal was opened at Sault Ste Marie in 1895; the Soulange Canal was opened in 1899. In NS the long-awaited Shubenacadie Canal, connecting the Bay of Fundy and Dartmouth, was opened in 1861. More construction was undertaken on the TRENT CANAL to provide another route to the upper Great Lakes.

In Atlantic Canada, the shipbuilding industry began to mature, and, as Canadian sailing ships, such as the MARCO POLO, began to acquire a world reputation, dozens of yards in Québec, NS, NB and PEI entered a period of great activity. Ships built in Canada for Britain traded all over the empire. Meanwhile, steamboat technology matured and wooden hulls with crude engines were replaced by high-pressure compound engines, contained in iron and steel hulls. The changing technology had a devastating effect on the Maritime shipbuilding industry.

In the 1880s, Canadian cities began to grow beyond the size where everyone could walk to work and public transportation was needed. Horse-drawn omnibuses were followed by horse-drawn streetcars on rails, and when the electric street car was developed, Toronto (1885) and Windsor, Ont (1886), had some of the earliest lines in North America. The safety bicycle appeared in the 1890s, radically transforming the common person's transportation.


Eastern Canada lost its preferential markets in Britain for wheat and gradually adopted DAIRY FARMING. The concept of CHEESE factories was brought to Upper and Lower Canada from New York in the early 1860s; factories produced a more uniform cheese of higher quality suitable for sale in the cities. Farm machinery took over many tasks. Massey, Harris, Hamilton, Shantz, Frost and Wood, and other companies developed a full line of farm machinery for most operations. Various kinds of food processing, meat packing and, eventually, refrigeration greatly extended produce markets.

In western Canada, the initial problems of adjusting to the climate, and adapting new techniques and marketing procedures, had been solved by 1900. Steam tractors, steel plows, efficient binders and threshing machines transformed the grasslands into a granary. Although many traction engines and implements were imported from the US and Britain, the Massey and Harris mowers and binders were world famous for efficiency and reliability.


By the 1860s Atlantic fishing technology had been changed by the introduction of the longline or "bultow." Refrigeration and railways increased the fresh-fish market. The growth of the live lobster trade and the rapid spread of the lobster-canning industry occurred towards the end of the period, as the New England lobster beds were depleted.


Lumbering continued in eastern Canada as huge sawmills were built to supply the growing cities of New England. By the late 1860s, wood pulp was being incorporated into the papermaking process in Canada, and pulpwood cutters began to harvest bush areas that had previously been thought valueless. The railways brought large-scale lumbering to BC, where some of the greatest stands of trees began to fall for lumber and PULP AND PAPER. Technology differed somewhat in eastern and western Canada: western mountains did not have convenient river systems to float out the huge logs; more mechanization was needed and sawmills were therefore on a larger scale.


Mining started dramatically in BC with the Fraser R gold rush of the late 1850s. Of more lasting technical implication was the discovery of base-metal deposits in southeastern BC. These deposits, such as Sullivan Mine (COMINCO), which are still being worked, launched one of Canada's first large-scale mining camps. The huge nickel-copper deposits in the Sudbury Basin were originally uncovered in a CPR rock cut. Metallurgical techniques were often the final key to unlocking the wealth of these mines. The Orford process was used to separate the copper-nickel ores of the Sudbury Basin; differential flotation was used to extract the complex ores, containing mostly lead and zinc, at the smelter in Trail, BC.

Pools of tar and PETROLEUM had been known and used by the Indians for medicine for generations, but the first commercial development did not occur until after 1857 when a small well was dug with ordinary water-well equipment at Oil Springs [Ont].

A refinery was built at nearby Sarnia where the oil was taken by a pipeline. Although the field was depleted in a few decades, the tremendously important OIL AND NATURAL GAS industries started in Canada. The ASBESTOS mines in the Eastern Townships of Québec went into production in this period.

The KLONDIKE GOLD RUSH (1898) attracted world attention and forced the establishment of new transportation routes. One of the main routes was forged through the WHITE PASS to Whitehorse by the narrow-gauge WHITE PASS AND YUKON RAILWAY. The Canadian engineer's first confrontation with PERMAFROST occurred in the gold diggings, where it was penetrated by wood fires and then steam thawing hoses. The real challenge for engineers came later when they had to redesign dredges in order to withstand the increased wear caused by the rock-hard permafrost.


Steam engines transformed transportation and, when applied to INDUSTRY and agriculture, gave a much more flexible power source. Steam power was only gradually applied to industry. Mills or factories would often add steam as a backup or would use steam if expanding. Steam power permitted new plants to locate near suppliers or markets because they were not tied to waterpower sites. Finally, ELECTRIC POWER made its Canadian debut in the 1880s. Many waterpower sites were developed to exploit this new and adaptable ENERGY source. Some of the earliest sites were developed to provide electric lighting for big commercial mills (where open flames were a fire hazard), such as at Young's sawmill, Ottawa, in 1882, and at the Canada Cotton Co in Cornwall, Ont, in 1883. The harnessing of the awesome power of NIAGARA FALLS in the next decade heralded a new age.


The farm machinery industry grew dramatically, employing new sources of power, manufacture and assembly; the railway made possible wider distribution and greater concentration. Engine and tool companies were established to provide machinery to the railway and forestry industries, eg, the Victoria Foundry and Machine Shops (1854), Ottawa, which manufactured steam engines, boilers and sawmill machinery; the Canadian Locomotive Co started as Tutton and Duncans Foundry in Kingston (1854); and Goldie-McCulloch (1859), Galt, which manufactured boilers, engines, pumps and flour-mill equipment.

Flour milling was radically changed by the introduction of rolling mills, which processed hard western wheat more quickly. One of the first to try the new roller mills was the E.W.B. Snider mill at St Jacobs, Ont, in the 1870s. The Ogilvie Flour Milling Co, founded in 1801, built a huge new plant in Montréal in 1886, incorporating the latest reduction roller mills. Bessemer patented his method of producing steel in 1856, but it was nearly the end of the century before steel was available in large quantities for bridge and building construction in Canada. Most of the early steel imported to Canada was used by the railways for rails. The changeover from iron rails to steel started in the early 1870s. However, it took many years for metallurgists to improve the quality of steel so that it could withstand the varied strains of a structure such as a bridge.

One of the first all-steel bridges in Canada was the cantilever railway bridge built at Saint John, NB, in 1884. Like steel, CEMENT had been used for centuries, but reliable, cheap, hydraulic cement was not available in Canada until the 1890s. The first plant to manufacture true hydraulic or "Portland" cement was likely in 1889 at the plant in Hull, Qué, owned by C.B. Wright and Sons.

Wood continued to be a basic material in construction, as commercial sawmills made standard-sized lumber available. The balloon frame, built up from the common "two-by-four" (about 5 cm by 10 cm), began to replace timber-frame construction. Wire nails became cheap and universally available. In composite buildings, cast-iron columns and wrought-iron beams gradually gave way to steel by 1900. The federal PARLIAMENT BUILDINGS in Ottawa, constructed in the 1860s, were among the first buildings in N America to have an interior iron frame. Brick construction became much more common as beehive and downdraft kilns and brick-forming machines were introduced.

Concrete began to be used more frequently in floors and foundations and, when reinforced with steel, eventually took over, transforming the CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY. By the end of the period, multistoreyed urban buildings and factories had central heating, electric light, elevators, and water and sewer services.


Communication technology advanced rapidly with the electric TELEGRAPH, ushered in as a companion to the railways in the 1850s. Bell's TELEPHONE appeared in the 1870s and, by the 1880s and 1890s, exchanges were common in most larger cities. The first telephone exchange in Canada was installed in 1878 in Hamilton and by the end of the year it had 40 telephones.

Water and Sanitation

Urban areas require large supplies of water for domestic and industrial use and fire protection and a corresponding system to handle WASTE DISPOSAL. By the 1870s the water supplies of most large cities were pumped by steam, and by 1900 some were using sand filters or hypochlorite of lime for WATER TREATMENT. Toronto and Kingston had pumping stations by 1841 and 1850, respectively. Halifax and Saint John had gravity systems even earlier (1848 and 1838, respectively). Many cities had drainage systems designed to handle surface water from heavy rain and snow, but not sewage.

Technical Education

Technical education began in this period in the workshops of railways, factories and schools. Formal engineering education began slowly with CIVIL ENGINEERING at King's College, Fredericton (1854); McGill (1871); School of Practical Science, Toronto (1873); École Polytechnique, Montréal (1873); Royal Military College, Kingston, Ont (1876); and the School of Mining and Agriculture, Queen's University, Kingston (1893). Most of these universities offered courses in civil, MINING and MECHANICAL ENGINEERING, and quickly added ELECTRICAL and CHEMICAL ENGINEERING programs.

The engineering profession had grown rapidly since the great canal and railway building days. Engineers of the time included Thomas Keefer and his brother Samuel, Sir Casimir GZOWSKI, Sir John KENNEDY and the SHANLY brothers.