Sunday, July 15, 2012

List of inventors killed by their own inventions

Franz Reichelt attempted to use this contraption as a parachute. Reichelt died,  after he jumped off the Eiffel Tower when the parachute failed to operate properly.





  • Horace Lawson Hunley (died 1863, age 40), Confederate marine engineer and inventor of the first combat submarineCSS Hunley, died during a trial of his vessel. During a routine exercise of the submarine, which had already sunk twice previously, Hunley took command. After failing to resurface, Hunley and the seven other crew members drowned.


  • Thomas Midgley, Jr. (1889–1944) was an American engineer and chemist who contracted polio at age 51, leaving him severely disabled. He devised an elaborate system of strings and pulleys to help others lift him from bed. This system was the eventual cause of his death when he was accidentally entangled in the ropes of this device and died of strangulation at the age of 55. However, he is more famous—and infamous—for developing not only thetetraethyl lead (TEL) additive to gasoline, but also chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).




  • Valerian Abakovsky (1895–1921) constructed the Aerowagon, an experimental high-speed railcar fitted with an aircraft engine and propeller traction; it was intended to carry Soviet officials. On July 24, 1921, a group led by Fyodor Sergeyev took the Aerowagon from Moscow to the Tula collieries to test it, with Abakovsky also on board. They successfully arrived in Tula, but on the return route to Moscow the Aerowagon derailed at high speed, killing everyone on board, including Abakovsky (at the age of 25).


  • Max Valier (1895–1930) invented liquid-fuelled rocket engines as a member of the 1920s German rocketeering society Verein für Raumschiffahrt. On May 17, 1930, an alcohol-fuelled engine exploded on his test bench in Berlin, killing him instantly.

Popular myths and related stories

  • Jim Fixx (1932–1984) was the author of the 1977 best-selling book, The Complete Book of Running. He is credited with helping start America's fitness revolution, popularizing the sport ofrunning and demonstrating the health benefits of regular jogging. On 20 July 1984, Fixx died at the age of 52 of a fulminant heart attack, after his daily run, on Vermont Route 15 inHardwick.
  • Joseph-Ignace Guillotin (1738–1814) While he did not invent the guillotine, his name became an eponym for it. Rumors circulated that he died by the machine, but historical references show that he died of natural causes.
  • Perillos of Athens (circa 550 BC), according to legend, was the first to be roasted in the brazen bull he made for Phalaris of Sicily for executing criminals.
  • James Heselden (1948–2010), having recently purchased the Segway production company, died in a single-vehicle Segway accident. (Dean Kamen invented the Segway.)
  • Wan Hu, a sixteenth-century Chinese official, is said to have attempted to launch himself into outer space in a chair to which 47 rockets were attached. The rockets exploded and, it is said, neither he nor the chair was ever seen again

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