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Thomas Carpenter

Willowdale (Ont.), Firefly Books, 1990. 160pp, paper, $9.95
ISBN 0-920656-93-5. CIP

Grades 9 and up/Ages 14 and up
Reviewed by Anne Louise Mahoney.

Volume 18 Number 6
1990 November

In an era of fax machines, supersonic airplanes, walkmans and microwave ovens, it is hard to imagine a time when inventors were still struggling to produce electricity, build flying ma­chines or transmit sounds and images over great distances. In Inventors: Profiles in Canadian Genius, Thomas Carpenter reminds us of the humble beginnings of technology by telling the stories of nine Canadian inventors and showing how their contributions influenced scientific advances world­wide.

Some of those included in the book (Sandford Fleming, William Stephenson, J. Armand Bombardier) are well known, while others (Abraham Gessner, Georges-Edouard Desbarats, William Leggo, Mabel Bell, Thomas Willson and Reginald Fessenden) are less familiar to the average person. But even if the names don't ring a bell, the inventions will. Standard time, acetylene lights, airplanes, calcium carbide, hydroelectric power stations, synthetic fertilizers, wireless radio transmission, the wirephoto and the snowmobile — each of these owes something to the theories, research and dedication of Canadian scientists. (It is unfortunate that of the nine individuals examined, only one is a woman, but perhaps that is the fault of history and not the author.)

Although the various experiments and theories mentioned in the book involve some fairly complex principles of chemistry, physics, electricity and other areas of science, the book is written in a very readable style. Each profile begins with an anecdote, and details of the personal lives of the subjects are interspersed with their professional successes and failures, major discoveries and disappointing set­backs. Black-and-white photographs and illustrations are scattered through­out the book, and an index and sugges­tions for further reading are also included.

Anne Louise Mahoney, Ottawa, Ont.
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