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Canadian Inventions    by Lisa Wojna order for
Canadian Inventions
by Lisa Wojna
Order:  USA  Can
Lone Pine, 2005 (2005)
* *   Reviewed by Theresa Ichino

From the sublime (medical miracles) to the ridiculous (a gun that shot two kinds of bullets, round for shooting Christians, square for shooting Turks), Canadians show themselves to be ingenious in their inventions.

Most of us have heard of people like Armand Bombardier, inventor of the Ski-Doo, and Drs. Banting and Best, credited with the discovery of insulin. Wojna gives the story behind the invention. Unable to traverse wintry terrain, Bombardier and his wife watched helplessly as their baby died - the Ski-Doo was never envisioned as a recreational vehicle (its primary use today) but as a life-saver to get help in medical emergencies. The facts behind the story of insulin show the warts: in addition to ill-natured wrangling over who should receive the credit for this discovery, there was a high price paid by the dogs used as test animals.

You may have heard of the Avro Arrow, the amazing jetfighter plane that was years ahead of its time. Unveiled in 1950, heralded as a brilliant innovation, the project was literally dumped less than a decade later, when Prime Minister John Diefenbaker not only ordered production and plans scrapped; he also ordered the destruction of the planes. To this day, no satisfactory explanation has been given for what appears to be an arbitrary and irrational decision. Thousands lost their jobs, and millions of dollars were spent without result.

Canadian inventors have addressed animal welfare and agriculture, focussing not only on machinery but also on crops. One of the most interesting inventions is that of farmers Jim and Jackie Anderson: the frostfree nosepump, manipulated by the animals themselves, ensures that cattle can obtain water in winter. It is evident that Canadians love recreational pastimes. Basketball, lacrosse hockey masks, synchronized swimming, Trivial Pursuit, Balderdash, five-pin bowling, three-dimensional puzzles all came from Canadian minds. Nor is safety ignored: witness hockey helmets and masks and the smart bicycle helmet, the latter designed by youngster Gina Gallant.

The Canada Arm, the concept of Greenwich time, Superman, Winnie-the-Pooh, ginger beef, salmon leather, giant pumpkins - these are but a few of the wide variety of creations that have Canadian origins. All inventions mentioned may not have been totally successful, but there is no denying that countless people owe their lives to the ones that were. Though there seems to be no logic to the organization or selection of items included, Canadian Inventions is an interesting collection of the serious, the whimsical, and the absurd. And reading it just might help you win a game of Trivial Pursuit.

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