An invention is said to be the ‘baby’ of an inventor. Inventors dedicate their time, energy and resources to perfect what they believe is a result of their creative genius. What if the cost of their invention is their life? Have a look at the most famous inventors killed by their own inventions.
The Word Web Dictionary defines an inventor as “someone who is the first to think of or make something”.
While most of us would be ‘inventors’, if only the ‘thinking’ part was taken into consideration, there are a few who go one step further and actually put their ‘unique’ thoughts into action. It is because of these proactive people, who are passionate about their ideas and are willing to take risks, that the world has progressed over the years.
Ironically, there are some inventors who were killed by their own inventions. These deaths were either a direct result of the invention (like when the invention failed during a test or when the invention crashed while being used) or indirect cause of the inventor’s death (like in case of exposure to harmful elements in a lab or fatal infection caused by an accident involving the invention or malfunction of the invention itself).
Given below is a list of the most famous inventors killed by their inventions.
List of Inventors Killed By Their Own Invention
|Name||Nationality||Invention||Death||Cause of Death|
|Li Si||Chinese||The Five Pains||208 B.C.||He was executed by his own method of execution after being convicted of treason.|
|James Douglas||Scottish||Scottish Maiden||1581||He was beheaded on the Scottish Maiden he invented.|
|Henry Winstanley||British||Eddystone Lighthouse||1703||He died in his lighthouse during the Great Storm of 1703.|
|Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier||French||Rozière Balloon||1785||He died when the balloon crashed while trying to cross the English Channel on its second flight.|
|Horace Lawson Hunley||American||Submarine named H. L. Hunley||1863||He died in the 2nd failed attempt to use it.|
|William Bullock||American||Rotary Printing Press||1867||His foot got caught in the press contraption, developed gangrene that led to his death 4 days later.|
|Cowper Phipps Coles||British||Turret Ship||1870||He died when his ship sunk due to overload.|
|Otto Lilienthal||German||Hang Glider||1896||He died due to a 56 feet (17 m) fall when his glider lost lift during a flight.|
|William Nelson||American||Motorized Bicycle||1903||He died when he fell off his motorized bicycle while testing it in General Electric.|
|Franz Reichelt||Austrian||Overcoat Parachute||1912||His death was due to fall from Eiffel Tower during a demonstration on 4th February.|
|Thomas Andrews||Irish||Architect of Titanic||1912||He died when the Titanic capsized on its maiden voyage in April.|
|Aurel Vlaicu||Romanian||Vlaicu II Airplane||1913||He died when his plane crashed on the Carpathian Mountains.|
|Valerian Abakovsky||Latvian||Aerowagon||1921||He died when the Aerowagon derailed during the test ride.|
|John Godfrey Parry-Thomas||Welsh||Babs Car||1927||His death occurred when the car’s right hand drive chain broke in a race which led to a fatal head injury.|
|Alexander Bogdanov||Russian||Blood Transfusion||1928||He died when the blood in the 12th transfusion done on himself was contaminated (some say the blood group was incompatible).|
|Max Valier||German||Liquid-fueled Rocket Engine||1930||He died when one of the liquid-fueled engines exploded on his lab desk.|
|Marie Curie||Polish||Radium, Polonium and Theory of Radioactivity||1934||She died of aplastic anemia caused due to constant exposure to radioactive elements.|
|Thomas Midgley, Jr.||American||Mechanical Bed with pulleys||1944||His death was due to lead poisoning and strangulation by ropes on his mechanical bed.|
|Harry K. Daghlian, Jr.||American||Atom Bomb||1945||He died due to acute radiation caused by lab accidents involving the plutonium sphere.|
|Louis Slotin||Canadian||Atom Bomb||1946||He also died due to acute radiation caused by lab accidents involving the same plutonium sphere.|
|Donald M. Campbell||British||Motorboat Speed Engine||1966||He died when his motorboat (with the speed engine) capsized in a race.|
|Henry Smolinski||American||Flying Car||1973||During a flight, the right wing of the car came off, resulting in a crash and the inventor’s death.|
|Karel Soucek||Canadian||Water Capsule||1985||He succumbed to injuries caused when his capsule capsized on its second test.|
|Michael Dacre||British||Flying Taxi||2009||He died when his flying taxi crashed during the test flight.|
|James (Jimi) Heselden||British||Segway Gyrobike (Owner)||2010||He died when he fell off an 80 feet cliff after the Segway scooter he was riding lost balance.|
It would be utter cowardice to say that it is better to keep ‘thinking’ instead of ‘doing’ just because some were unfortunate enough to pay with their lives for their creativity. Besides, many of the inventions mentioned above have played an important role in the development of man. Maybe the dying words of one such inventor (Otto Lilienthal) best describes the significance of losing a life for an invention – “Sacrifices must be made.”