George J Klein: The Great Inventor


289 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-660-19322-1
DDC 608.771




Reviewed by Alex Curran

Alex Curran is a former member of both the National Advisory Board on
Science and Technology and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research
Council. He was chair of the Telecommunications Sectoral Advisory
Committee on Free Trade and the first recipien


George J. Klein was a master of things mechanical and a prolific
inventor. This biography describes his contributions to the National
Research Council of Canada (NRC) from 1929 to 1969 and onward into his
retirement. It illustrates how effective it can be to create an
environment in which knowledgeable innovators can contribute to team
projects without consideration of ownership and patent rights. In fact,
this book well illustrates how NRC achieved success in its first half

Perhaps three measures illustrate the process. The first is the quality
of the people involved; the second is the freedom to explore and
contribute; and the third is the security of tenure. Klein’s
illustrious career is a tribute to the manner in which NRC managed those
measures in that period.

As shown conclusively, Klein was a genius in his understanding and
application of mechanics. His interest and knowledge contributed to
applications as diverse as skis for bush planes and electric
wheelchairs; using technologies as diverse as prairie windmills and the
Space Shuttle’s Canadarm; and environmental applications as diverse as
earthly nuclear reactors and antennas in space. This diversity speaks
both to the quality of the individual and to an environment created by
NRC that favoured group contribution.

At the same time, NRC allowed and perhaps even encouraged the pursuit
of in-depth understanding of factors affecting design. Klein’s work in
snow classification, for example, took five years from initiation to
public disclosure of results and a further 12 years before it was
adopted as the international standard. Clearly, NRC had the patience to
support the pursuit of knowledge without threats to the tenure of key
technical staff members.

George J. Klein is an interesting biography of a person who was a key
contributor to the mechanical design of hundreds of applications. It is
also, by necessity, a biography of the first half century of NRC’s


Bourgeois-Doyle, Richard I., “George J Klein: The Great Inventor,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 12, 2024,