________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 4 . . . . October 10, 2008

cover Canadian Scientists and Inventors: Biographies of People Who Shaped Our World. 2nd. Ed.

Harry Black.
Markham, ON: Pembroke, 2008.
216 pp., pbk., $24.95.
ISBN 978-1-55138-222-7.

Subject Headings:

Grades 7 and up / Ages 12 and up.

Review by Barbara McMillan.

**** /4


Donald Hings
Inventor: The Walkie-Talkie

At a press conference in Toronto in 1941, which was associated with an enlistment drive for army recruits, a soldier in uniform with the Hings packet C-18 two-way wireless portable radio strapped to his chest was asked by a reporter: “What does it do?” The soldier replied, “Well, you can walk with it while you talk with it.” And so the reporter in his story referred to the Hings invention on display as a  “walkie-talkie,” which was a logical and inevitable short version of  what it was. …The Canadian radio design of Hings was generally considered to be the best of that kind of equipment used by the allies in the war Harry Black’s Canadian Scientists and Inventors was first published in 1997 with the subtitle Biographical Profiles of Fame, Fortune.

See: umanitoba.ca/cm/vol4/no11/cdnscientists.html

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His newest edition comes with a redesigned cover (a light bulb with a filament in the shape of the Canadian maple leaf), a subtitle that focuses on the individual scientist’s or inventor’s contributions to society rather than personal consequences, and 17 newly penned biographical stories “about great scientists and inventors – largely from our past.” As in the first edition, the entries are two to six pages in length and begin with a full page portrait, drawn by Black who is not only a writer but holds degrees in architecture, history and fine arts and is an Officer of  the Order of Canada as well as a former National Executive Director of  UNICEF Canada.

     With the exception of six or seven well known individuals, namely Frederick Banting and Charles Best (insulin), Alexander Graham Bell  (telephone), Roberta Bondar (astronaut), Mike Lazaridis (Blackberry), David Suzuki (environmentalist), and Joseph Tyrrell (Drumheller dinosaur beds), Black writes about men and women few Canadians know about but should at least be able to associate with a particular product or idea. Like the walkie-talkie of British Columbian Donald  Hings mentioned in the except above, readers become acquainted with Lewis Urry, a chemical engineer born in Pontypool, Ontario, who developed the alkaline battery while working for Union Carbide in Cleveland, OH, and Leone Farrell, a biochemist from Monkland Station, ON, who, at the height of the poliomyelitis epidemic, developed a method of mass producing the Salk polio vaccine at the University of  Toronto’s Connaught Medical Research Laboratories. There are also biographical stories of 12 Nobel prize winners, seven of whom were born in Canada.

     The book that Black has made available to an audience that includes teachers of science and science students is a book that I wish I had when I taught the simple machines unit to a group of students in a multi-age (Grades 4-6) classroom. In an attempt to incorporate a more humanistic approach to the teaching of science, I included stories from the history of science and technology. Where possible, these fit with each of the simple machines being studied, but there were also  narratives about interesting discoveries and inventions. A few of these were Canadian, but, if Black’s book had been available, there would have been many more.

     It’s inspiring to read about the ingenuity of the chemists, physicists, astronomers, geologists, biologists, medical researchers, engineers, entrepreneurs, and inventors described on the pages of Canadian Scientists and Inventors. Whether it’s Charles Saunders’ role in the development of Marquis wheat, Harold Johns’ cobalt 60 radiation treatment for cancer, Sanford Fleming’s standard time system, or Michael Smith’s process for chemically altering a strand of DNA to  create a selective mutation, all 44 men and three women have, as Black suggests, shaped the world in which we live. It may be that access to these stories might inspire current and future generations of learners to contribute, in a similar way, to our global society.

Highly Recommended.

Barbara McMillan is a teacher educator and professor of science education in the Faculty of Education, the University of Manitoba.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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