List of inventors killed by their own invention

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Franz Reichelt (d. 1912) jumped off the Eiffel Tower expect­ing this con­trap­tion to act as a parachute.

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.

Direct casualties





  • Andrei Zheleznyakov, a Soviet scientist, was developing chemical weapons in 1987 when a hood malfunction exposed him to traces of the nerve agent Novichok 5. He spent weeks in a coma, months unable to walk, and years suffering failing health before dying from its effects in 1992/3.[16]
  • Marie Skłodowska Curie, born Maria Salomea Skłodowska, was a Polish and naturalized-French physicist and chemist who conducted pioneering research on radioactivity. On 4 July 1934, she died at the Sancellemoz sanatorium in Passy, Haute-Savoie, from aplastic anaemia believed to have been contracted from her long-term exposure to radiation, some of which was from the devices she created.[17]
  • Sabin Arnold von Sochocky invented the first radium-based luminescent paint, but eventually died, in 1928, of aplastic anemia resulting from his exposure to the radioactive material.[18]



Submarine Torpedo Boat H.L. Hunley, Dec. 6, 1863 by Conrad Wise Chapman (1864)


  • Alexander Bogdanov (1873–1928) was a Russian physician, philosopher, science fiction writer and revolutionary of Belarusian ethnicity who experimented with blood transfusion, attempting to achieve eternal youth or at least partial rejuvenation. He died after he took the blood of a student suffering from malaria and tuberculosis, who may have also had the wrong blood type.[26][27]
  • 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 ropes and pulleys to help others lift him from bed. He became entangled in the ropes and died of strangulation at the age of 55. However, he is better known for two of his other inventions: the tetraethyl lead (TEL) additive to gasoline, and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).[28][29][30]

Publicity and entertainment

  • Karel Soucek (1947–1985) was a Czech professional stuntman living in Canada 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 injured when his barrel hit the rim of the water tank meant to cushion his fall.[31]


  • Henri Thuile, inventor of the large high-speed Thuile steam locomotive died during a test run between Chartres and Orleans. Conflicting accounts indicate that he was either thrown from the derailing locomotive, hitting a telegraph pole,[32] or that he simply leaned too much and was instantly killed by hitting his head against a piece of bridge scaffolding.[33]
  • Valerian Abakovsky (1895–1921) constructed the Aerowagon, an experimental high-speed railcar fitted with an aircraft engine and propeller traction, intended to carry Soviet officials. On 24 July 1921, it derailed at high speed, killing 6 of the 22 on board, including Abakovsky.[34]


  • Max Valier (1895–1930) invented liquid-fuelled rocket engines as a member of the 1920s German rocket society Verein für Raumschiffahrt. On 17 May 1930, an alcohol-fuelled engine exploded on his test bench in Berlin, killing him instantly.[35]
  • Mike Hughes (1956–2020) was killed when the parachute failed to deploy during a crash landing while piloting his homemade steam-powered rocket.[36]

Popular legends and related stories

Perillos being pushed into his brazen bull
  • 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.[37][38]
  • Li Si (208 BCE), Prime Minister during the Qin dynasty, was executed by the Five Pains method which some sources claim he had devised.[39][40][41][failed verification] However, the history of the Five Pains is traced further back in time than Li Si.
  • Wan Hu, a possibly apocryphal[42] 16th-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.
  • João Torto, a most likely legendary 16th century Portuguese man who jumped from the top of Viseu Cathedral wearing a biplane-like flying rig and an eagle-shaped helmet.[43]
  • William Brodie, "Deacon Brodie" of 18th century Edinburgh, is reputed to have been the first victim of a new type of gallows of which he was also the designer and builder, but this is doubtful.[44]
  • In The Adventures of Philip by William Makepeace Thackery, the narrator, Pendennis, asks "Was not the good Dr Guillotin executed by his own neat invention?" In fact, Joseph-Ignace Guillotin was neither the inventor of the guillotine nor executed by it.
  • Jimi Heselden was killed while riding a Segway scooter. While he owned the company Segway Inc., he did not invent the Segway.[45]

See also


  1. ^ Morton, Ella (2014-03-17). "Blucifer, the Murderous Mustang of Denver Airport". Slate. ISSN 1091-2339. Retrieved 2016-08-06.
  2. ^ "Died in the Saddle", Boston Daily Globe, p. 1, 2 June 1896
  3. ^ "Killed By Own Invention – While Trying Motor Bicycle He Had Made, Schenectady Man Meets Death". New York Times. 4 October 1903. Retrieved 22 November 2014.
  4. ^ Doris A. Isaacson, ed. (1970). Maine: A Guide "Down East" (second ed.). Rockland, Maine: Courier-Gazette, Inc. Maine League of Historical Societies and Museums. p. 386. (First edition).
  5. ^ "F. S. Duesenberg Dies of Auto Injury". New York Times. 27 July 1932. p. 17.
  6. ^ Boitani, Piero; Boitani, Professor of Comparative Literature Piero (2007). Piero Boitani, Winged words: flight in poetry and history. University of Chicago Press, 2007. p. 38. ISBN 9780226065618. Retrieved 22 November 2014.
  7. ^ Biography of Otto Lilienthal Lilienthal Museum
  8. ^ 2003 Personal Accounts Darwin Awards
  9. ^ Great Britain Patent GB191026658
  10. ^ Ralph S. Cooper, D.V.M. "Aurel Vlaicu at". Retrieved 22 November 2014.
  11. ^ Morris, Neil (2010). From Fail to Win, Learning from Bad Ideas: Transportation. ISBN 978-1-4109-3911-1.
  12. ^ Soniak, Matt, "The Flying Pinto That Killed Its Inventor," Mental Floss, July 30, 2012 Accessed 26 April 2023
  13. ^ "British inventor dies in crash on test flight of his flying taxi". The Evening Standard. Archived from the original on 20 August 2009. Retrieved 22 November 2014.
  14. ^ "Michael Robert Dacre - Homepage".
  15. ^ Franco, Michael, "Death by Invention: 5 Inventors who Died by Their Own Work," How Stuff Works? Accessed 26 April 2023
  16. ^ "'It's got me': the lonely death of the Soviet scientist poisoned by novichok". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 March 2018.
  17. ^ "Marie Curie". Retrieved 27 September 2020.
  18. ^ "Radium paint takes its inventor's life; Dr. Sabin A. von Sochocky Ill a Long Time, Poisoned by Watch Dial Luminant. 13 Blood Transfusions. Death Due to Aplastic Anemia – Women Workers Who Were Stricken Sued Company". The New York Times. 15 November 1928.
  19. ^ "United States Patent 61996". Retrieved 22 November 2014.
  20. ^ "United States Patent 100,367". Retrieved 22 November 2014.
  21. ^ "Inventors killed by their own inventions". Discovery News. Retrieved 2010-10-30.
  22. ^ "Eddystone Lighthouse History". Eddystone Tatler Ltd. Archived from the original on 2 May 2006. Retrieved 7 September 2006.
  23. ^ Churchill, Dennis (2011). "The First Submariner Casualty" (PDF). In Depth (32): 5–6. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 July 2011. Retrieved 7 June 2011.
  24. ^ "The Birth of Undersea Warfare – H.L. Hunley". Undersea Warfare: The Official Magazine of the U.S. Submarine Force. United States Navy. September 17, 2011. Archived from the original on October 16, 2012.
  25. ^ Sandler, Stanley (2004). Battleships: An Illustrated History of Their Impact. ABC-CLIO. p. 32. ISBN 978-1-85109-410-3 – via Google Books.
  26. ^ "Transfusion Medical Reviews". 2007: 337–340. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  27. ^ Huestis DW (2007). "Alexander Bogdanov: the forgotten pioneer of blood transfusion". Transfus Med Rev. 21 (4): 337–340. doi:10.1016/j.tmrv.2007.05.008. PMID 17900494.
  28. ^ Bryson, Bill. A Short History of Nearly Everything. (2003) Broadway Books, US. ISBN 0-385-66004-9
  29. ^ Alan Bellows (2007-12-08). "The Ethyl-Poisoned Earth". Damn Interesting.
  30. ^ "Milestones, Nov. 13, 1944" Time, November 13, 1944
  31. ^ "35,000 Watch as Barrel Misses Water Tank : 180-Ft. Drop Ends in Stunt Man's Death". Los Angeles Times. Associated Press. 21 January 1985. Retrieved 18 August 2012.
  32. ^ Douglas Self. "The Thuile Cabforward". Retrieved 2023-04-26.
  33. ^ DH. "La locomotive Thuile Cabforward". Retrieved 2023-04-26.
  34. ^ Alexey Abramov / Алексей Абрамов By the Kremlin Wall / У кремлёвской стены Moscow / М., Politizdat / Политиздат 1978 pp./стр. 399 (in Russian)
  35. ^ "American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics". Archived from the original on 26 December 2011. Retrieved 22 November 2014.
  36. ^ Silverman, Hollie (February 23, 2020). "Daredevil 'Mad Mike' Hughes dies while attempting to launch a homemade rocket". CNN. Retrieved 23 February 2020.
  37. ^ "Perillos of the Brazen Bull". Archived from the original on 16 December 2012. Retrieved 25 July 2010.
  38. ^ "The Brazen Bull". Retrieved 1 October 2011.
  39. ^ Guisso, R. W. L., The first emperor of China, New York : Birch Lane Press, 1989. ISBN 1-55972-016-6. Cf. p.37
  40. ^ Fu, Zhengyuan, Autocratic tradition and Chinese politics, Cambridge University Press, 1993. Cf. p.126
  41. ^ "The Civilization of China, Chapter II: Law and Government". Archived from the original on 11 August 2015. Retrieved 11 August 2011.
  42. ^ Williamson, Mark (2006). Spacecraft Technology: The Early Years. IET. ISBN 9780863415531.
  43. ^ Maia, Samuel (1933). "O primeiro aviador português: quem foi?" [The first Portuguese aviator: who was he?] (PDF). Arquivo Nacional (in Portuguese): 822–823, 831. Retrieved 23 February 2021.
  44. ^ Roughead, William (1951). Classic Crimes: A Selection from the Works of William Roughead. London: Cassell. ISBN 0394716485.
  45. ^ "Segway company owner rides scooter off cliff, dies". NBC News. Retrieved February 3, 2022. A British businessman, who bought the Segway company less than a year ago, died after riding one of the scooters off a cliff and into a river near his Yorkshire estate.

Further reading

External links