On December 6th, 1989, women were targeted, shot, and killed for being engineering students. Today is a day to honour women scientists and engineers living and working in Canada.

Honouring women scientists working above Canada is good, too. Julie Payette and Ellen Ochoa between 27 May and 6 June 1999. Image credit: NASA


Fourteen women were killed and another ten women and four men injured during the attack at √Čcole Polytechnique in Montreal, Quebec. Today is a day to remember Genevi√®ve Bergeron, a civil engineering student; H√©l√®ne Colgan, Nathalie Croteau, Barbara Daigneault, Sonia Pelletier, Anne-Marie Lemay, and Annie St-Arneault, mechanical engineering students; Anne-Marie Edward, a chemical engineering student; Maud Haviernick, Maryse Leclair, Mich√®le Richard, and Annie Turcotte, materials engineering students; Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz, a nursing student, and Maryse Lagani√®re, a budget clerk at the university.

In Canada, the anniversary of the Montreal Massacre is a national day of remembrance and action. These women died before they could complete their training, before they could contribute to science and engineering in Canada, before they had a chance to be competent, professional engineers. We will never know what they could have contributed to science or to society. Instead of giving attention to their killer, I chose to honour these students by sharing the stories of women who have had a chance to contribute. Here are a few women in science and engineering in Canada, a thoroughly incomplete list of accomplishments and discoveries made by women who lived and worked:


Roberta Lynn Bondar is an astronaut from Sault Ste. Marie. She flew on the Space Shuttle Discovery, becoming the first Canadian woman in space. She later co-anchored Discovery Channel coverage of launches, and current uses landscape photography to support her environmental advocacy charity.

Elizabeth Cannon is a geomatics engineer from Charlottetown. She developed satellite techniques using global positioning satellites, starting with techniques for precise positioning of aircraft using semi-kinematic differential GPS.

Dusanka Filipovic is a chemical engineer who emigrated from Yugoslavia. She is co-inventor of "Blue Bottle" technology to safely recovery halogenated hydrocarbon compounds for re-reuse.


Charlotte Fischer is a mathematician who emigrated from Ukraine. She developed atomic structure models to successfully predict the existence of negative calcium ions.

Franklin. Credit: University of Toronto

Ursula Franklin is a metallurgiest who emigrated from Germany. She applied material science techniques to archeology, developing the field of archaeometry, and contributed to early efforts to track the impact of nuclear weapons testing fallout.


Charlotte Keen is a marine geophysicist from Halifax. She was the first woman to work a Geologic Survey of Canada research cruise (by smuggling aboard), going on to participate in the massive LITHOPROBE project to map Canada's tectonic structure.

Keen in front of a GSC research vessel.

Geraldine Kenney-Wallace is a physicist who emigrated from England. She opened and operated the first ultrafast laser lab in a Canadian university, reaching timescales of 6 x 10-14 seconds for research on molecular motion and optoelectronics.


Cathleen Synge Morawetz is a mathematician from Toronto. She advanced the field of nonlinear partial differential equations, leading to applications in acoustics, aerodynamics, and optics, including her improving aerodynamics of supersonic aircraft.

Harold Grad looks on as Cathleen Morawetz works on the chalkboard. Image credit: CIMS


Julie Payette is an astronaut from Montreal. She flew on Space Shuttle Discovery for the first manual docking at the International Space Station, also becoming the first Canadian on the station. She returned on Space Shuttle Endeavour when 13 astronauts from 5 nationalities gathered at the station, marking the first time when two Canadians were in space.

Payette operating controls on the aft flight deck on 29 July 2009. Image credit: NASA


Alice Payne is a mining geologist from Edmonton. She persisted in demanding access to field work for women. Despite laws barring her from underground site visits, she successfully advised mining operations for years by interpreting photographs, cores, and reports.

Veena Rawat is an electrical engineer who emigrated from India. She worked in public service, advancing telecommunications and improving spectrum management.

Indira V. Samarasekera is a metallurgiest who emigrated from Sri Lanka. She developed continuous casting and hot rolling techniques for steel, applying her research in heat transfer and stress analysis. She also worked on growing solitary crystals for use in electronic devices.


Frances Wagner is a micropalaeontologist from Hamilton. She was one of the first women (along with Keen) permitted to do fieldwork with the Geologic Survey of Canada, going on to work on research cruises through the northwest passage.

Wagner aboard the CSS Hudson during a 1970 research cruise through the northwest passage.


Mary Anne White is a materials scientist from London (Ontario). She developed a new class of heat-absorbing materials with applications to absorbing waste heat, insulation, and heat storage.

This is just a handful of incredible Canadian women working in science and engineering. Please tell me about more!