Quill and Quire

REVIEWS

« Back to
Book Reviews

The Scientific Canadian

by Roy Mayer

The Scientific Canadian is a companion volume to Roy Mayer’s Inventing Canada, in which the science writer and inventor profiled Canadian inventors in industry. Mayer’s latest book looks at the scientific discoveries that have stemmed from the National Research Council (NRC).

The Scientific Canadian is divided into 12 sections. Each examines one aspect of work at the NRC, from space technology to electronics and energy alternatives. There is a general introduction to each topic and there are 13 examples of how the technology has been, or is being, applied. Brief biographies of the main scientist behind each invention are included.

In its 75-year history, the NRC has made remarkable accomplishments and its staff have contributed much to society in Canada and internationally. The problem is that many of these contributions do not make riveting reading for a general audience. Several fields covered in this book, such as biotechnology, are so complex that they are difficult to present briefly to a lay audience. Mayer tries bravely, but the hurdles are too high.

As an overview of NRC researchers and their achievements, The Scientific Canadian does what it sets out to. However, it is too detailed for a general audience and not detailed enough for a scientific one. Mayer tries to enliven his stories with the biographies, but these are so brief as to be repetitive. The text is weighed down with technical terminology and names and is occasionally overwritten, reading like a company annual report.

The Scientific Canadian is an interesting catalogue of the significant achievements of the NRC. It will be popular among those close to the government body and with scientists looking for an overview, but will not find a general audience.