DRDC (Defence Research and Development Canada) Toronto traces its root back to 1939 when the Department of National Defence (DND) recognized the importance of environmental medicine and human performance in the defence of Canada, particularly in the areas of aviation and undersea medicine. Just prior to the beginning of the Second World War, Sir Frederick Banting began laboratory studies in pressure physiology at the Banting and Best Institute at the University of Toronto where the first decompression chamber for human studies in Canada was established.
In an attempt to consolidate human factors research in the Canadian Forces, the Defence and Civil Institute of Environmental Medicine (DCIEM) was established in April 1971 in Toronto adjacent to the site of Canadian Forces Base Toronto. With a combination of military and civilian research staff, DCIEM addressed the operational needs of the Canadian Forces in all environments. Many unique facilities were developed at DCIEM, including a human centrifuge for research in aviation medicine, hypobaric (1954) and hyperbaric (1977) chambers, and hot and cold climatic chambers.
Originally designed as a saturation diving complex, the Diving Research Facility (DRF) at DCIEM has wet and dry chambers with a transfer lock linking the two main chambers. It has a capacity for up to 26 personnel and has been used primarily in the validation of the DCIEM decompression tables. In the mid-1960s, DCIEM developed the Kidd/Stubbs serial decompression model. This model was continuously evaluated and modified over the next 20 years, and a revised set of decompression tables for both single and repetitive dives on compressed air were released in 1984 based on thousands of Doppler evaluated dives assessing bubble formation.
Today the DCIEM decompression tables are used worldwide by the Canadian Armed Forces and other foreign navies, commercial diving organizations, and civilian organizations and recreational divers to reduce the risk of decompression sickness, commonly called 'the bends'.
DCIEM was renamed Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) Toronto in 2001. In Oct 2014, the institute celebrated 75 years of excellence in Canadian Defence Research in environmental medicine and human performance.