3 November 2014
The Most Productive Inventor in Canada
Born August 15, 1904, George Johann Klein was a Hamilton, Ontario-born Canadian. Never a straight A student Klein managed somehow to get into college at the University of Toronto to become an inventor. Klein’s major inventions include the Canadarm, the ZEEP nuclear reactor, and the first electric wheelchairs for quadriplegics.
The Canadarm was a remote-controlled mechanical arm, operating similar to a human arm, used in the space shuttle for remote manipulation. It was to have a shoulder joint, an elbow joint and a wrist with each powered by small motors. This called for innovative gearing, and no one could be absolutely sure how it would behave in space, and no one had ever built anything like it before (George). But Klein attacked the assignment with enthusiasm of someone who had been given a second chance and someone whose child-like sense of wonder had been rekindle unexpectedly. The Canadarm has been used since 1981 aboard the space shuttle for such diverse tasks as repairs on the Hubble Telescope (Burden).
The ZEEP (Zero Energy Experimental Pile) nuclear reactor was built at the Chalk River Laboratories in effort to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons during the Second World War. It was one of the world’s first heavy water reactors, and it was also designed to use natural uranium. Uranium enrichment is a complex and expensive process; thus, the ability to use unenriched uranium gave ZEEP and its descendants a number of distinct advantages. In 1996 ZEEP was designated a historical site by Ontario, and commemorated with a historic plaque. Both this plaque and ZEEP itself are now on display at the Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa, Canada (ZEEP).
While working for the National Research Council of Canada Klein invented the electric-powered wheelchair for quadriplegics. The electric wheelchair has been dubbed as Canada’s Great...