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List of inventors killed by their own inventions

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Franz Reichelt (d. 1912) attempted to use this contraption as a parachute. Reichelt died after he jumped off the Eiffel Tower wearing his invention, which failed to operate as expected.

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





Hunley Submarine
  • Henry Winstanley (1644–1703) built the first lighthouse on the Eddystone Rocks in Devon, England between 1696 and 1698. During the Great Storm of 1703 the lighthouse was completely destroyed with Winstanley and five other men inside. No trace of them was found.[15]
  • Horace Lawson Hunley (died 1863, age 40), Confederate marine engineer and inventor of the first combat submarine, Hunley, died during a trial of his vessel. During a routine test of the submarine, which had already suffered one accident, Hunley took command. After failing to resurface, Hunley and the seven other crew members drowned.[14] The navy salvaged the submarine and put it back into use.


  • Alexander Bogdanov (22 August 1873 – 7 April 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 been the wrong blood type.[16][17]
  • 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 accidentally entangled in the ropes and died of strangulation at the age of 55. However, he is more famous—or infamous—for two of his other inventions: the tetraethyl lead (TEL) additive to gasoline, and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).[18][19][20]


  • 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.[21]
  • Marie Curie (1867–1934) invented the process to isolate radium after co-discovering the radioactive elements radium and polonium.[22] 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.[14][23]

Publicity and entertainment

  • Karel Soucek (1947–1985) 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.[24]


  • Valerian Abakovsky (1895–1921) constructed the Aerowagon, an experimental high-speed railcar fitted with an aircraft engine and propeller traction; it was intended to carry Soviet officials. On 24 July 1921, a group led by Fyodor Sergeyev took the Aerowagon from Moscow to the Tula collieries to test it, with Abakovsky also on board. They successfully arrived in Tula, but on the return route to Moscow the Aerowagon derailed at high speed, killing everyone on board, including Abakovsky (at the age of 25).[25]


  • 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.[26]

Popular myths and related stories

Perillos being pushed into his brazen bull

See also


  1. ^ "Died in the Saddle", Boston Daily Globe, p. 1, 2 June 1896 
  2. ^ "KILLED BY OWN INVENTION; While Trying Motor Bicycle He Had Made, Schenectady Man Meets Death — Article Preview". New York Times. 4 October 1903. Retrieved 22 November 2014. 
  3. ^ 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).
  4. ^ "F. S. Duesenberg Dies of Auto Injury". New York Times. 27 July 1932. p. 17. 
  5. ^ Piero Boitani, Winged words: flight in poetry and history. University of Chicago Press, 2007. p. 38. Retrieved 22 November 2014. 
  6. ^ Biography of Otto Lilienthal Lilienthal Museum
  7. ^ 2003 Personal Accounts Darwin Awards
  8. ^ Great Britain Patent GB191026658
  9. ^ Ralph S. Cooper, D.V.M. "Aurel Vlaicu at". Retrieved 22 November 2014. 
  10. ^ Morris, Neil (2010). From Fail to Win, Learning from Bad Ideas: Transportation. ISBN 1-4109-3911-1. 
  11. ^ "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. 
  12. ^ "United States Patent 61996". Retrieved 22 November 2014. 
  13. ^ "United States Patent 100,367". Retrieved 22 November 2014. 
  14. ^ a b c "Inventors killed by their own inventions". Discovery News. Retrieved 2010-10-30. 
  15. ^ "Eddystone Lighthouse History". Eddystone Tatler Ltd. Archived from the original on 2 May 2006. Retrieved 7 September 2006. 
  16. ^ "Transfusion Medical Reviews". 2007: 337–340. 
  17. ^ Huestis DW. "Alexander Bogdanov: the forgotten pioneer of blood transfusion". Transfus Med Rev. 21: 337–40. doi:10.1016/j.tmrv.2007.05.008. PMID 17900494. 
  18. ^ Bryson, Bill. A Short History of Nearly Everything. (2003) Broadway Books, USA. ISBN 0-385-66004-9
  19. ^ Alan Bellows (2007-12-08). "The Ethyl-Poisoned Earth". Damn Interesting. 
  20. ^ "Milestones, Nov. 13, 1944" Time, November 13, 1944
  21. ^ "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, November 15, 1928.
  22. ^ "American Institute of Physics Biography of Marie Curie". Retrieved 22 November 2014. 
  23. ^ American Institute of Physics Biography of Marie Curie
  24. ^ Associated Press (21 January 1985). "35,000 Watch as Barrel Misses Water Tank : 180-Ft. Drop Ends in Stunt Man's Death". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 18 August 2012. 
  25. ^ Alexey Abramov / Алексей Абрамов By the Kremlin Wall / У кремлёвской стены Moscow / М., Politizdat / Политиздат 1978 pp./стр. 399 (in Russian)
  26. ^ "American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics". Archived from the original on 26 December 2011. Retrieved 22 November 2014. 
  27. ^ "Perillos of the Brazen Bull". Archived from the original on 16 December 2012. Retrieved 25 July 2010. 
  28. ^ "The Brazen Bull". Retrieved 1 October 2011. 
  29. ^ Guisso, R. W. L., The first emperor of China, New York : Birch Lane Press, 1989. ISBN 1-55972-016-6. Cf. p.37
  30. ^ Fu, Zhengyuan, Autocratic tradition and Chinese politics, Cambridge University Press, 1993. Cf. p.126
  31. ^ "The Civilization of China, Chapter II: Law and Government". Archived from the original on 11 August 2015. Retrieved 11 August 2011. 
  32. ^ Williamson, Mark (2006). Spacecraft Technology: The Early Years. IET. 
  33. ^ "The Maiden". National Museums Scotland. Retrieved 6 August 2010. 
  34. ^ Chambers, William; Chambers, Robert (January–June 1844). "Dr Guillotin". Chambers's Edinburgh Journal. I: 218–221. Retrieved 2009-12-30. 
  35. ^ "Joseph Ignace Guillotin". Who Named It?. 
  36. ^ "Why sports people get heart attack". 
  37. ^ McDougall, Christopher (20 July 2009). "To live is to jog". BBC News Magazine. BBC. Retrieved 20 August 2011. 
  38. ^ "Segway company owner dies in apparent Segway accident". CNN. 27 September 2010. Retrieved 27 September 2010. 

Further reading

External links