List of inventors killed by their own inventions  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

This is a list of inventors whose deaths were in some manner caused by or related to a product, process, procedure, or other innovation that they invented or designed.

Contents

Direct casualties

Automotive

Aviation

Industrial

Maritime

  • Horace Lawson Hunley (died 1863, age 40), Confederate marine engineer and inventor of the first combat submarine, CSS 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 Andrews (shipbuilder) (7 February 1873 – 15 April 1912) was an Irish businessman and shipbuilder; managing director and head of the drafting department for the shipbuilding company Harland and Wolff in Belfast, Ireland. Andrews was the naval architect in charge of the plans for the ocean liner RMS Titanic. He was travelling on board the Titanic during its maiden voyage when it hit an iceberg on 14 April 1912 and was one of the 1,507 people who perished in the disaster.

Medical

  • 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 the tetraethyl lead (TEL) additive to gasoline, but also chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).
  • Alexander Bogdanov (22 August 1873 – 7 April 1928) was a Russian physician, philosopher, science fiction writer and revolutionary of Belarusian ethnicity who started blood transfusion experiments, apparently hoping to achieve eternal youth or at least partial rejuvenation. He died after he took the blood of a student suffering from malaria and tuberculosis, possibly due to blood type incompatibility.

Physics

  • Marie Curie (1867–1934) invented the process to isolate radium after co-discovering the radioactive elements radium and polonium. She died of aplastic anemia as a result of prolonged exposure to ionizing radiation emanating from her research materials. The dangers of radiation were not well understood at the time.
  • Some physicists who worked on the invention of the atom bomb at Los Alamos died from radiation exposure, including Harry K. Daghlian, Jr. (1921–1945) and Louis Slotin (1910–1946), who both were exposed to lethal doses of radiation in separate criticality accidents involving the same sphere of plutonium.
  • Sabin Arnold von Sochocky invented the first radium-based luminescent paint, but eventually died of aplastic anemia resulting from his exposure to the radioactive material, "a victim of his own invention."

Publicity and entertainment

  • Karel Soucek (19 April 1947 – 20 January 1985) was a Canadian professional stuntman who developed a shock-absorbent barrel. He died following a demonstration involving the barrel being dropped from the roof of the Houston Astrodome. He was fatally wounded when his barrel hit the rim of the water tank meant to cushion his fall.

Punishment

Railways

Rocketry

  • Max Valier (1895–1930) invented liquid-fuelled rocket engines as a member of the 1920s German rocketeering society Verein für Raumschiffahrt. On 17 May 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 of running 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 in Hardwick.
  • Joseph-Ignace Guillotin (1738–1814) While he did not invent the guillotine, his name became an eponym for it.
  • Perillos of Athens (circa 550 BCE), 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 that neither he nor the chair were ever seen again.

See also





Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "List of inventors killed by their own inventions" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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