In 1950, Canada’s Department of Veterans Affairs asked Dr. George Klein at the National Research Council to build a better motorized wheelchair. Klein redesigned an American wheelchair motor and mounted it on an adapted Everest and Jennings chair. A joystick allowed veterans with limited upper body movement to operate the chair. The government gave Klein’s prototype to the U.S. government for sharing with American manufacturers as the best way to commercialize it. Was this the best way?

Klein Power Chair Prototype

Klein Chair, electric wheelchair prototype built by National Research Council, Canada, 1950, design by engineer George Klein. Collections of the Division of the History of Medicine and Science, Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, Washington, D.C. (on loan to Canada Science and Technology Museum).

Klein and Owens

Dr. George Klein (right), assisted by Robert Owens, working on the prototype in the National Research Council Canada labs in Ottawa, Canada. Photo courtesy of National Research Council Canada, Archives, id. no. George Klein Wheel Chair 025.