Class of 1979
J. Armand Bombardier had an insatiable curiosity and a talent for creating. A native of Valcourt, Quebec, Joseph-Armand was born in 1907. His thirst for knowledge has resulted in numerous patents, and has won him a permanent place in the ranks of Canada’s most renowned inventors and entrepreneurs. He called his most famous invention the Ski-Doo, and these tracked snowmobiles became a revolutionary form of travel.
Bombardier’s talent emerged at a young age; when he was just thirteen years old he was building mobile toys using clock mechanisms, and when he was fifteen he designed his first snow vehicle. Although Bombardier did receive some college education, he left school to pursue his passion. Apprenticing at a garage, Bombardier took his education into his own hands, reading science and technology publications and attending night-school classes in mechanics and electrical engineering.
With a loan from his father, Bombardier opened his own garage in 1926 at the age of 19. He did well for himself and was able to pay back the loan by 1929, marrying that same year. However, this early success did not prevent him from continuing his extracurricular research.
During the winter season, snow prevented motorized travel in the isolated Quebec villages. Bombardier was preoccupied with this significant dilemma, and set out to perfect the solution he began to work on at 15 years of age. In the winter of 1934, Joseph-Armand’s young son died when the family was unable to get him to the hospital in time to receive the care he needed. This tragedy spurred Bombardier on. For ten years, he worked diligently to create a vehicle that could stand up to the demanding Quebec winter. Eventually obtaining a patent for his findings and starting up a factory, the first snowmobiles hit the market in the winter of 1936-37.
Bombardier’s snowmobiles were a success, yet he would continue to improve on his original invention for years to come, accumulating a great deal of patents and a superior reputation as a result. He incorporated his ever-expanding company in 1942, and begins to mass-produce his Ski-Doo in 1959.
Deeply devoted to his community, Bombardier served as municipal councilor of Valcourt, was a member of the parish choir, and received the title Knight of Saint Grégoire-le-Grand for his support of the Church. Known as a man who lived life to the fullest, Bombardier also owned and piloted his own plane.
Joseph-Armand died in 1964 at the age of 56, but Bombardier Inc. has endured the test of time. Today, the company builds locomotives for Canada, commuter trains for Chicago, and tramway cars for Vienna. Manufacturing has also extended to some non-transportation applications.