George Klein

George Johnn Klein, design engineer (b at Hamilton, Ont 15 Aug 1904; d at Ottawa 4 Nov 1992). Possibly the most productive inventor in Canada in the 20th century, he spanned in his career the "stick and string" era of aviation to the Space Shuttle. Klein worked 1929-69 at the National Research Council and as a consultant after retirement. He designed the NRC's first wind tunnels and undertook research on fitting skis to aircraft, which led in turn to designing the Weasel army snowmobile (mass-produced in the US as the M-29) and ultimately to studying the mechanics of snow, on which he became an authority. Gearing systems were a lifelong specialty.
Klein, George
George Klein developed aiming systems for artillery and later gears for Canadarm (artwork by Irma Coucill).

During WWII he designed aiming systems for artillery and naval antisubmarine mortars and in his seventies he was chief consultant on gear design for the Canadarm. In 1951 he invented the STEM (Storable Tubular Extendible Member), a radio antenna that can be retracted into a flat reel and rolled out again on command. First used in space by the Alouette 1 satellite of 1962, the STEM increased the maximum size of satellite antennas from 6 metres to 45 metres, and was subsequently adopted as standard space technology.

In 1944-45 Klein headed the team that designed the Zero Energy Experimental Pile, the first atomic reactor outside the US. His other inventions ranged from a wheelchair for quadriplegics to a microsurgical staple gun used to suture blood vessels.

Further Reading

  • W.E.K. Middleton, Mechanical Engineering at the National Research Council of Canada, 1929-1951 (1984).

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