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Oh, the irony! Inventors Killed By Their Own Creations

Updated on May 25, 2012

Franz Reichelt

Known as the "Flying Tailor", born Austrian Franz Reichelt, attempted to develop the earliest parachute, called the "parachute suit", which he hoped would be used in aviation. After testing several dummies from his fifth floor apartment, he was granted permission to test his parachute from the first platform of the Eiffel Tower. On February 4, 1912, after much argument between the inventor and his friends and family whether he should use a dummy once again, he leapt to his death. The parachute failed to deploy and he was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.

Newsreels caught the tragedy on tape, as show in the video to the right.

Marie Curie

Two-time Nobel Prize winner Marie Curie was famed for her discovery of two new elements, polonium and radium. Thanks to her, the first cancer treatments using radioactive isotopes were used on patients. Her research into radiation, which was conducted without any safety precautions, lead to her eventual death in 1934. She contracted aplastic anaemia due to the high levels of radioactivity in her blood. Even today her papers from the 1880's are stored in a lead box and can't be handled. As first female professor at the University of Paris and major contributer to science, her remains were transferred to the Pantheon in Paris in 1995, where she is the first and only woman to be layed to rest there.

Thomas Midgley Jr.

Mechanical engineer and chemist, Thomas Midgley Jr developed both the tetra-ethyl lead (TEL) additive to gasoline and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) while working at General Motors in 1916. However, he is better known for his cause of death than his accomplishments. When he was 51 years old, he contracted Polio which left him disabled. Being the engineer that he was, he created a device which would assist his carers in lifting and moving him from the bed which was made of ropes and pulleys. At the age of 55, he accidentally became entangled in his contraption, leading to strangulation and death.

Aurel Vlaicu

Romanian engineer and inventor, Aurel Vlaicu developed some of the earliest airplane models, one of which took its first flight in 1910. He was killed during a test flight of his aircraft while he attempted to cross the Carpathian Mountains. In 1916 during the Germany occupation of Bucharest, the Germans seized his Vlaicu III aircraft, and was never returned.

William Bullock

William Bullock of the inventor of the 1863 rotary printing press, which laid the path to modern printing presses across the world. Several years after inventing the press, he was installing a new machine in Philadelphia. On April 3, 1867, while making adjustments to the press, his foot became caught in the machine and was crushed. The foot later became gangrene and had to be amputated. He died on April 12, 1867 during the amputation surgery.


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      HubTub 5 years ago

      Fascinating history...great read. Voted up and interesting.

    • craftybird profile image

      craftybird 5 years ago from Toronto, Ontario

      Thank you! The video was quite eerie but I thought it was interesting to add as well!

    • UnnamedHarald profile image

      David Hunt 5 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      I enjoyed reading your article and the video was a nice supplement. Voted up and interesting.