Series: Inventors Killed By Their Own Inventions (Part I)

It’s all fun and games… until something you invent ends up killing you. Inventing new products or processes is not easy. It’s challenging and risky and sometimes, just sometimes, lady luck decides to look the other way and in a cruel twist of fate with a tinge of irony, you end up losing your life to the hands of your own creation. Here’s a list of  brave inventors who, in the process of trying to make the lives of others better, lost their own !

1.  Thomas Midgley- Leaded Petrol and Mechanical Bed

Thomas Midgley, an American chemist who developed both leaded petrol and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), was notoriously known as ‘the one human responsible for more deaths than any other in history’. As if it was nature’s idea to get revenge on him he was left disabled in his bed due to lead poisoning and polio at the age of 51. Keeping his inventive juices flowing, he designed a complicated system of strings and pulleys on his bed so that he could lift himself up when needed. This invention was the cause of his death at the age of 55 when he was accidentally entangled in the ropes of his bed and died of strangulation. Talk about double irony.

2. Otto Lilienthal – Hang Glider

‘To invent an airplane is nothing. To build one is something. But to fly is everything’ – famous words uttered by Otto Lilienthal who was one of the pioneers of human aviation and invented the first few hang gliders. He made over 2500 successful flights using his own inventions for five straight years starting from 1891 until one fateful day, in the mid of 1896, his glider lost lift and he crashed from a height of 17m (56 feet). The impact broke his spine and a day later, he succumbed to his injuries. His last words are a source of inspiration for all those who face numerous obstacles in life while trying to achieve something big: ‘Small sacrifices must be made!

3. Franz Reichelt- The Overcoat Parachute

Franz Reichelt an Austrian born tailor of the 1800’s was most famously known for inventing an overcoat which he claimed to act as a parachute and could bring its wearer gently to the ground or even to fly under the right conditions. This inventor, who was also called the ‘The Flying Taylor’, attempted to demonstrate his invention by jumping off the first deck of the Eiffel tower himself instead of using a dummy, in front of a large crowd of spectators and camera crew. The result? The parachute failed to deploy and he crashed into the hard concrete ground at the foot of the tower, the impact immediately killing him.

4. Alexander Bogdanov- Blood Transfusion

A renowned Russian physician, philosopher, economist, science fiction writer, and revolutionary, Alexander Bogdanov developed a sudden interest in the possibility of human rejuvenation through blood transfusions. In hopes of achieving eternal youth and bodily revitalization, he undertook 11 blood transfusions, ultimately reporting an improvement in eyesight and reduction of balding. Great invention, right? Wrong. Bogdanov died in 1928, after he did a transfusion on himself with blood from a student that had tuberculosis and malaria.

5. William Bullock- Rotary Printing press

In the history of bizarre accidents, William Bullock’s story is always cited as an example. Bullock was an American inventor whose 1863 invention of the rotary printing press helped revolutionize the printing industry due to its efficiency and ability to print 10,000 units per hour. In April 1867, while he was trying to install a new printer in one of his presses, in a frustrated attempt to make adjustments to the machine, he kicked a driving belt onto a pulley. What followed next tops scenes from even the most gruesome movies like Hostel and Saw. His food got caught in the merciless contraption, was crushed beyond repair and developed a severe gangrene infection for four days. Bullock died during an operation to amputate his foot. Bizarre Indeed.

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