Inventors Who Were Killed by Their Inventions


Being an inventor has some risks. Sometimes, not all inventions lead to glory. While some ended up in failure, others ended up in tragedy.

Here are the following inventors who were killed by their own ideas:

1. Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier (1754 – 1785)

Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier was one of the world’s earliest pioneers of aviation. In 1783, he volunteered for the first human hot air balloon flight because he wouldn’t let “this honor go to an artisan.” The flight propelled him to global renown.

He was set to outdo this achievement by creating the Rozière balloon in 1785. However, his aircraft crashed while he and his companion, scientist Pierre Romain, attempted to cross the English channel.

2) William Bullock (1813 – 1867)

William Bullock was the inventor of the web rotary press, which consisted of a printing press fed by a continuous roll of paper.

Unfortunately, he was killed by his own invention due to a bizarre accident. While making adjustments to one of his new installations in Philadelphia, he either tried to kick it, or his foot was caught by one of its mechanisms. The machine caught his leg, crushing it. A few days later, he developed gangrene, and eventually died during an operation to amputate his leg.

3) Alexander Bogdanov (1873 – 1928)

Bogdanov was a Russian physician, philosopher, science fiction writer, and Bolshevik co-founder who invented blood transfusions to see whether it would bring rejuvenating effects to the human body. On his 12th transfusion he made a fatal mistake by deriving blood from one of his students, who was either sick, infected, or of the wrong blood type.

4) Karel Soucek (1947 – 1985)

Soucek was a Canadian professional stuntman who developed a shock-absorbent barrel in which he would go over the Niagara Falls. It was successful, but when he repeated the same stunt at the Houston Astrodome, the barrel was released prematurely. Soucek plummeted 180 feet, hitting the rim of the water tank meant to cushion the fall. He died from his injuries.

5) Thomas Andrews (1873 – 1912)

Thomas Andrews was known as a shipbuilder and naval architect of – guess what –  RMS Titanic. He was also on board when the ship, on its maiden voyage, hit an iceberg and sank on April 14, 1912. He was one of the 1,500 casualties of the disaster. His body was never recovered.

6) Max Valier (1895 – 1930)

Valier was an Austrian rocket pioneer. He invented the liquid-fueled rocket engines during his time as a founder and member of Verein für Raumschiffahr, a Germany-based rocket association. Valier was killed in 1930 when an alcohol-fueled rocket exploded on his test bench.

7) Horace Lawson Hunley (1823 – 1863)

Hunley was a Confederate marine engineer during the American Civil War era. In 1863, he came up with his prototypes of a combat submarine. His second submarine already sank while attempting an attack on the Union blockade. Despite this, Hunley went aboard on his third submarine, the H. L. Hunley. Tragically, the submarine sank, drowning him and the rest of his seven crew.

8) Marie Curie (1867 – 1934)

Marie Curie was a world-renowned Polish-French scientist who pioneered research into radioactivity. She is also credited with inventing X-rays and the discovery of the two elements (radium and polonium). Besides being the first woman to win a Nobel prize, so far she is the only person to receive two Nobel prizes (in physics and chemistry).

Due to her prolonged exposure to radiation in the course of her scientific research, Curie died at age 66 from aplastic anemia.

9) Valerian Abakovsky (1895 – 1930)

Abakovsky was a Latvian inventor best remembered for the Aerowagon. It was a steam-powered, propel-driven high-speed rail car intended to whisk away big-time Soviet officials across the vast Siberian lands. In July 1921, his Aerowagon approached a curve at over 80 mph. The vehicle derailed at high speed, killing six of the 22 people on board. Unfortunately, one of the fatalities was the 25-year-old Abakovsky himself.

10) Franz Reichelt (1878 – 1912)

Franz Reichelt was not just an inventor, he was a daredevil; too. The Austrian-born French parachuting pioneer is now sometimes referred to as the “Flying Tailor,” because of his other chief occupation as a tailor. And maybe, he is also remembered for his recklessness.

Reichelt became obsessed with the idea of designing a suit that would convert itself into a parachute. Using his own skills as a tailor, Reichelt eventually came up with his own wearable parachute.

Receiving permission from the Parisian police, Reichelt started to conduct a test flight up from the Eiffel Tower. He even convened a large group of press people so that they could witness his jump. As you might expect – right from his first leap off the tower, gravity took over. His own parachute failed to deploy, and Reichelt plummeted 187 feet to his death.  His fatal jump was even captured on this now-historical newsreel.

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