An Unsung Hero of Science

040524I recently reviewed some of the inventions of a Canadian mechanical engineer called George Klein, who died in 1992.  Klein has been called the most productive inventor in Canada in the twentieth century.  He was an unsung hero of science, who played a key role in some of Canada’s greatest engineering achievements.

As a boy he spent time exploring a watch factory attached to his father’s jewellery store in Hamilton, Ontario.  The inspiration of this early exposure to intricate mechanical systems motivated him as an adult to redesign the gears used in aircraft and ships to make them more efficient.

He also designed numerous items important for the allied war effort, including an all terrain vehicle.  After the war he invented the first electric wheelchairs for quadriplegics, as well as a surgical instrument for stitching severed arteries.  In addition to all this he worked on the design of a retractable antenna, the STEM antenna; a communication device for astronauts aboard the Apollo missions.  It is still standard equipment on satellites.  All this led to Spar Aerospace recruiting Klein in his retirement years to help design the gearing system for the CanadArm:  a fifteen metre long mechanical arm used on NASA’s space shuttle.

So next time you’re thinking about what to do with your life, remember:  Though genius may not always lead to fame and fortune, it can lead to a fun and rewarding life.