The first motorized wheelchair was built by an inventor named George Klein. He was working with the National Research Council of Canada to find ways to help the veterans of World War II come home and live better, more normal lives despite having a permanent injury. Klein is often called one of the most prolific inventors in Canadian history, which isn’t bad considering he was a C student in high school. Born in 1904, his invention of the electric wheelchair changed how people with a disability could integrate into society.
Here is a look at some of Klein’s other key inventions.
1. The ZEEP Nuclear Reactor
This invention came online in 1945 and is significant because it was the first nuclear reactor to become active outside of the United States. Klein was part of the team to make the nuclear reactor become a reality and it’s design was unique for the time. It was one of the world’s first heavy water reactors and it was designed to use natural uranium instead of the enriched variety. It was decommissioned in 1973 and dismantled in 1997, but was critical to the science and technology development of Canada.
2. Ground Cover Snow Classification
If there’s one thing that northern Canada gets a lot of every year, it is snow. Klein realized that there was no international standard available to classify this snow. If snow was “fluffy” to one person, it might be considered “crunchy” to someone else. Klein then launched his own snow measurement team, came up with his own definitions to classify ground cover snow, and did so based on the mechanics of how the precipitation settles.
3. Better Aircraft Skis
Thanks to his research into how snow works, Klein was able to design aircraft skis that were more aerodynamic and would provide a stable performance on take-offs and landings. His improvements were able to reduce drag by up to 80% as it reduced the pitching as well. What Klein’s skis were able to solve was the issue of resistance along the snow. It’d be like putting permanent wax that was always good on the bottom of your downhill skis.
4. Aeronautic Research
As Klein set his engineering mind to work, he realized that he would need actual laboratories and research facilities that could help him and his team work more efficiently. He became responsible for the development of Canada’s first national research facilities that included a wind tunnel and other unique test basins so ideas could be effectively tested.
5. Weasel ATV
The Weasel was a tank that was used by Allied forces during the second world war. The one issue with the design of the tank was that the design of the track made it difficult to move the tank through certain environments. Klein improved on the design, and while he was at it, he also created life jackets that would automatically inflate and an acoustic mine sweeping technique to protect his country’s forces more effectively during this same period of time as well.
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