5 great Canadians in recent history

Lester B. Pearson, Marshall Mcluhan, and Terry Fox

Images of Pearson, McLuhan, and Fox  by various sources on Wikimedia Commons.  Public Domain

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These are some of the most important Canadians from the 20th century. They are known for their bravery, talent, intelligence, and for being good examples of Canadians. Here are their stories:

  1. Dr. Frederick G. Banting

    Dr. Banting was a doctor who won a very important award, the Nobel Prize in Medicine, in 1923. He won this for his work on a disease called diabetes. He found out about a substance called insulin, which is very important for our bodies. He was born in 1891 in Alliston, in Ontario. He studied at the University of Toronto. He was a doctor in the Canadian Army during World War I and was given an award for being brave. After the war, he worked as a doctor in Ontario. He was very interested in diabetes and worked with another doctor, Dr. Charles Best, to find out more about insulin. They were able to make insulin to help people who were sick. Dr. Banting was only 32 when he won the Nobel Prize, which made him the youngest person to win this award in Medicine. He also won other awards and was a member of many medical groups around the world. He was given a special title, a knighthood, in 1934.

  2. Lester B. Pearson

    Pearson is known as the person who started “modern peacekeeping”. He was the Prime Minister of Canada from 1963-1968. He was born in 1897 in Newtonbrook, Ontario. He was a very important person in Canada’s government in the 1950s and 1960s. He helped Britain and France leave Egypt during a difficult time called the Suez Crisis. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957 for his work. His government made many important changes in Canada, like a plan for pension, a system for everyone to get medical care, a single army, and a new flag. He stopped working in the government in December 1967 and started writing his life story and a study for the World Bank.

  3. Marshall McLuhan

    McLuhan was a very important person in the study of media communications. He was born in Edmonton, AB in 1911. He studied at the University of Manitoba and later Cambridge University, where he got his Ph.D. in Literature. But he started to study media at Cambridge. He was a professor at many universities. He became famous in the 1960s for his ideas about media and how it changes society and culture. He wrote many books about this. People still talk about and study his ideas today.

    (Heritage Minutes: Marshall McLuhan, Historica Canada)

  4. Terry Fox

    Terry Fox was a very brave young man. He was an athlete, a person who helps others, and worked to find a cure for cancer. He was born in Winnipeg and grew up in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia. When he was 18, he found out he had bone cancer, which made him lose his right leg. But he was very moved by the other people with cancer in the hospital. So he decided to run across Canada to raise money for cancer research. His “Marathon of Hope” started in St. John’s, Newfoundland on April 12, 1980. After 143 days, he had to stop in Thunder Bay, Ontario because the cancer had spread to his lungs. He died soon after, but his work has inspired many people around the world. Every year, people run in the Terry Fox Run to raise money for cancer research. Over $650 million has been raised from this event. Terry Fox was given many awards for his work.

    Heritage Minutes: Terry Fox, Historica Canada

  5. Wayne Gretzky

    Wayne Gretzky is a very famous hockey player. He was born in Brantford Ontario in 1961. He learned to skate when he was two and started playing in small leagues when he was six. He still holds the record for the most goals in the league. He started his professional career when he was 17 with the Indianapolis Racers and then with the Edmonton Oilers. He and his team broke many records and changed the game. He won many awards and set many records. Later, he was traded to the Los Angeles Kings where he led the team and made hockey more popular in the US. He retired in 1999 and was the last player to become a member of the Hall of Fame.

Sources: The Canadian Encyclopedia; The Terry Fox Foundation; Gretzky.com, Nobel Prize.org, Marshall McLuhan.com, Canadian Space Agency.

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Community Resources

Get to know more great Canadians. Read more examples in Great Canadians in history and 5 Great Canadians in history (part 2).

Read 11 basic facts about Canada and learn more about the great country and its marvelous Canadians.

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