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A Brief History of Albertan Innovations

Inspired by the land, the climate, a strong sense of justice and plain old curiosity, Albertans have been turning the world on its ear for almost a century

Nov 8, 2012

by Alberta Venture Staff


1917 – 1929
Women’s Rights
Not only did the Famous Five (Emily Murphy, Louise McKinney, Nellie McClung, Henrietta Muir Edwards and Irene Parlby) call Alberta home, but the Alberta legislature can claim the first elected female member in the British Empire (McKinney) and the first female cabinet minister in Canada (Parlby).
1917
Edmonton community leagues
Organizing athletics, hosting barbecues and running the outdoor rink: Edmonton’s 155 volunteer-run community leagues are the beating heart of many of the city’s neighbourhoods.
1923
Liquified helium
Working in a gas field near Calgary, John McLennan set up the world’s first natural gas extraction plant, which separated gases with relatively high liquefying and solidifying temperatures from others like helium and hydrogen. McLennan patented the process which set in motion the commercialization of natural gas.
1929
Oil from sand
Karl Clark, a chemist with the Alberta Research Council, patented a hot water and caustic soda mixture for the extraction of bitumen from oil sands, unofficially launching the industry around Fort McMurray as we know it today.
1935
Social Credit
Forged during the depths of the Great Depression, the social credit movement held that all citizens have the right to share in the wealth they produce. As leader of the Alberta Social Credit Party, Pastor William Aberhart rode this premise to the premier’s chair in 1935, with the Socreds winning 56 of 63 seats and remaining in power until 1971.
1936
The Noble blade
Concerned with soil erosion, Charles Sherwood Noble invented the Noble blade, which reduces topsoil loss by undercutting stubble residue and cutting weed roots beneath the soil without turning the soil over. It was a critical innovation in the dry and dusty 1930s.
1938
The electron microscope
A team of Alberta scientists headed by C.E. Hall discovered that magnetic lenses could be used to bend streams of electrons, then built a microscope using electrostatic rather than magnetic principles. By 1938, the first electron microscope was producing good pictures.
1952
The Rat Patrol
After discovering a rat infestation near Alsask, a town in central Saskatchewan located along the Alberta border, the provincial government set up the Rat Patrol to deal with outbreaks and legislated that Albertans take measures to control rats. The initiatives halted the western march of rats and the government estimates the province has saved $1 billion over the years by reducing property damage, livestock losses and
the burden on the health system.
1974
AOSTRA
Funded by the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund, the Alberta Oil Sands Technology and Research Authority worked with industry todevelop many of the technologies for oil sands and heavy crude oil production and for the enhanced recovery of conventional crude.
1983-1988
The Edmonton Oilers
Sure they had the horsepower, but the Oilers through the mid-1980s reinvented hockey, going with a wide open, freewheeling style that earned them all kinds of scoring records and four Stanley Cups in five seasons.
1987-2000
The Reform Party
Emphasizing the rights and responsibilities of the individual, Senate and other democratic reforms and small government, the Reform Party under leader Preston Manning won 52 seats in 1993 and became the official opposition in 1997. Its influence continues to be felt to this day in federal politics.
1994
Charter schools
The first and still the only province to allow Charter schools, Alberta has 13 of them. They are tuition-free public schools, but have a greater degree of autonomy than normal public schools, allowing them to offer unique programs geared toward specific segments of the student population.
1995
The Mainline sewer Valve
Having seen hundreds of cases of damage to homes caused by sewage backup, plumber and gasfitter Gabe Coscarella developed a valve that goes on the main sewer line coming into the house. It replaced the branch-line protection approach that was the standard at the time, and led to changes to the National Plumbing Code of Canada.
1997
Silver bandages
After six years of R&D by Robert Burrell at Westaim Technologies,
Acticoat silver-coated wound dressings went on sale. They are antimicrobial dressings that prevent infections and promote healing, and were the world’s first commercial application of therapeutic nanotechnology.
2008
Cleankeys
Inspired by the needs of dentists, Randy Marsden developed Cleankeys, a smooth, sealed keyboard that is easy to disinfect and therefore useful in hospitals, dental offices and other places where infection control is a primary concern.
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