Sometimes invention and innovation comes with a price. For these inventors who dared to dream big, they paid that price with their life.
1. Jean-Françoise Pilâtre de Rozier
Dubbed the “Modern day Icarus,” it was fame and glory that led Jean-Françoise to his death. His study of chemistry and physics helped him improve upon the recently designed hot air balloon, leading to a design called the Rozière ballon. To prove the balloon’s prowess and to gain fame, he attempted a flight across the English Channel. It failed, and the balloon caught fire and Pilâtre de Rozier fell to his death.
2. Jimi Heselden
The man who owned Segway, Inc. died riding one. While taking a ride on his Segway, Heselden, out of an act of courtesy, swerved to avoid hitting a man walking his dog. He ended up going off a cliff and fell 80 feet to his death.
3. Henry Smolinski
It seems man has always longed for a flying car, and Henry Smolinski was determined to make it happen. Using a modified Ford Pinto and a Cessna Skymaster, he actually created the first somewhat-successful flying car. Unfortunately, during a test flight, the wings detached and Smolinski and the Pinto crashed back to earth.
4. Marie Curie
The scientific work done by Marie Curie changed the world as we knew it. Beyond her scientific accomplishments, she also made social strides — becoming the first woman to hold a position as Professor of General Physics. Her work included discovering a process to isolate radium and creating the theory of radioactivity. It was the long-term exposure to radiation during her research that led to her death.
5. Franz Reichelt
Franz Reichelt, in man’s many attempts at flight, died while testing the first parachute. In 1912, the tailor jumped from the Eifel Tower to his death. The canopy on his parachute failed to open in time and he fell before an onlooking crowd. It also was one of the first tragedies ever caught on film.
6. James Douglas
James Douglas served as a Regent to Scotland. During that time, he introduced into the country a guillotine design known as the “Maiden.” After making a few enemies, Douglas was sentenced to death. And the execution method just so happened to be the guillotine he brought to Scotland.
7. William Bullock
William Bullock invented the Bullock Press — the first press that could be fed continuous rolls of paper. It greatly increased the rate of printing, and it’s a technique we still use today. During the installation of a new press, William’s foot was crushed. It led to an infection he later died from.
8. Sylvester Rope
Sylvester Rope developed the first motorcycle. Rope’s self-propelled bike was a hit. He took it on tours across the country, showcasing it at fairs and circuses. During one of those tours, Rope crashed his steam-powered bike and died as a result.
9. Horace Lawson Hunley
Horace was a Confederate engineer during the Civil War. He was credited with designing a hand-powered submarine. It sank during its first launch, killing five people. But Hunley wasn’t on board. He ordered the submarine to be salvaged and to try again. This time Hunley did go aboard. The second time proved no better, and the submarine sank, killing everyone.
10. Perillos of Athens
Perillos was responsible for designing a torture device for the tyrant Phalaris. Using his twisted imagination, Perillos designed a hollow bronze bull that could fit a human inside. The bull then had a fire lit underneath, and victims would be burned alive. But Perillos didn’t stop there. He fitted the bull with acoustic tubes that would distort the victim’s screams and make them sound like a bellowing bull. When the tyrant Phalaris heard about it, he ordered Perillos to be the first victim of the torture device.
Do you know any other stories of inventors who died from their own inventions? Share in the comments below!