Inventors Killed By Their Own Inventions

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Inventors Killed By Their Own Inventions

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.”

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