You know those moments when inventors have a eureka moment, and everything seems to fall into place? Yeah, this article is not about those moments. This is about the times when inventors thought they were onto something big, only for their inventions to backfire in the most tragic and ironic ways possible. Welcome to the dark side of innovation.
The Inventions and Their Unfortunate Inventors
The Flying Tailor: Franz Reichelt and His Parachute Suit
In 1912, Franz Reichelt, a tailor, thought he could revolutionize the world of aviation with his parachute suit. This suit was designed to function as both clothing and a parachute, and Reichelt was convinced it would save lives. Despite warnings, he decided to test his invention by jumping off the Eiffel Tower. Sadly, the suit failed, and Reichelt plummeted to his death. Talk about making a fashion statement.
Fun Fact: Reichelt had a friend who tried to talk him out of the jump, but he didn’t listen. I guess sometimes it’s good to have that one friend who says, “Dude, that’s a terrible idea.”
2. The Brazen Bull: Perillos of Athens and His Torture Device
Perillos of Athens, a Greek inventor, created the Brazen Bull, a hollow bronze sculpture of a bull with a door on its side, for the tyrant Phalaris. The idea was to place a victim inside the bull, and then light a fire underneath, turning the bull into an oven. The screams of the victim would sound like the bellowing of a bull. But when Perillos demonstrated his invention to Phalaris, the tyrant was so disgusted that he decided to test it on its creator. Perillos was roasted alive in his own invention. Ouch.
Weird Fact: The Brazen Bull had an acoustic apparatus that converted the victim’s screams into a bull’s bellow. Talk about a twisted sense of creativity.
3. The Segway
Jimi Heselden and His Two-Wheeled Transport Jimi Heselden, a British entrepreneur, became the owner of the Segway company in 2010. The Segway is a two-wheeled, self-balancing personal transporter. Sadly, Heselden died in a freak accident when he accidentally drove his Segway off a cliff. While Heselden didn’t invent the Segway, his death is a tragic reminder of the unpredictability of life and the need for safety precautions.
Quirky Fact: Jimi Heselden was a philanthropist who donated millions to charity. In a twist of irony, he once said, “I think, if you’ve got the money, you should spend it on something worthwhile.”
4. The Rocket Chair: Wan Hu and His Space Travel Attempt
Wan Hu, a 16th-century Chinese official, had dreams of traveling to the moon. He devised a plan that involved strapping 47 gunpowder-filled rockets to a chair and lighting them all at once. Unfortunately, when the fuses were lit, the rockets exploded, and Wan Hu was never seen again. Maybe he made it to the moon after all? We’ll never know.
Funny Fact: It’s said that Wan Hu’s last words were, “Y’all watch this!” Okay, maybe not. But it would have been a fitting last statement.
5. The Self-Adjusting Bed: Lawrence B. Sperry and His Bed of Death
Lawrence B. Sperry, an aviation pioneer, also invented a self-adjusting bed that would automatically adjust its angle based on the position of the sleeper. However, Sperry met his end when he became trapped in the mechanism of his own invention, which malfunctioned and crushed him. Talk about a nightmare come to life.
Strange Fact: If Sperry’s bed had been successful, it might have revolutionized the way we sleep today. But, alas, it ended up being a deadly trap instead.
6. The Submarine: Horace Lawson Hunley and His Underwater Marvel
Horace Lawson Hunley, a Confederate engineer during the American Civil War, designed the H.L. Hunley, a hand-cranked submarine. Hunley was determined to prove the effectiveness of his invention, but during a test dive in 1863, the submarine sank, killing Hunley and his entire crew. His underwater marvel turned out to be a watery grave.
Odd Fact: The H.L. Hunley was the first submarine to successfully sink an enemy ship. However, it never resurfaced after its mission, making it a one-hit-wonder.
7. The Radioactive Elixir: Eben Byers and His Lethal Tonic
Eben Byers, an American socialite and industrialist, was an avid consumer of Radithor, a radioactive tonic that claimed to cure various ailments. Byers drank several bottles of Radithor daily, convinced of its health benefits. However, the radioactive elements in the tonic eventually led to his death in 1932 due to radiation poisoning. Sometimes, the cure is worse than the disease.
Bizarre Fact: Byers was buried in a lead-lined coffin to protect others from the radiation still present in his body. Talk about going out with a bang!
8. The Recoilless Gun: Valerian Abakovsky and His Rail-bound Rocket
Valerian Abakovsky, a Russian engineer, invented the Aerowagon, a high-speed railcar powered by an aircraft engine and designed to transport Soviet officials. In 1921, during a test run, the Aerowagon derailed at high speed, killing Abakovsky and several passengers. High-speed rail travel turned out to be a one-way ticket to disaster.
Unsettling Fact: The Aerowagon looked like something out of a steampunk novel, with its propeller in the front and streamlined design. Unfortunately, its performance didn’t live up to its futuristic appearance.
9. The Auto-belay Device: John Hancox and His Climbing Safety Invention
John Hancox, a British climber, invented an auto-belay device designed to keep climbers safe in case of a fall. Tragically, Hancox died in 2002 when he fell while using his own invention, which failed to arrest his fall. A safety device that couldn’t keep its creator safe—irony at its finest.
Unexpected Fact: Hancox’s invention has since been refined and is now widely used in climbing gyms worldwide, providing safety for countless climbers. It’s a bittersweet legacy.
The Grand Finale: A Cautionary Tale of Inventive Peril
The stories of these inventors serve as a cautionary tale of the risks involved in pushing the boundaries of innovation. While their ideas were bold, their untimely deaths remind us of the importance of safety and the need to balance ambition with caution.
FAQs and Not-So-FAQs
Why did these inventors test their inventions themselves?
Many inventors are passionate about their creations and believe in their ability to change the world. They may feel the need to personally test their inventions to prove their effectiveness and gain credibility.
Have any other inventors died from their inventions?
Yes, there are several other cases of inventors who have died due to their inventions. These nine examples are just a small selection of the numerous unfortunate incidents throughout history.
Are there any safety regulations in place to prevent such incidents today?
Modern safety regulations, standards, and testing protocols have been established to minimize the risks associated with new inventions. However, accidents can still occur, and inventors should always prioritize safety.
Do the families of the inventors receive any compensation for their losses?
In some cases, the families of inventors who have died due to their inventions might receive compensation through life insurance policies, settlements, or other means. However, this varies on a case-by-case basis and is not guaranteed.
What can we learn from the deaths of these inventors?
The most important lesson from these stories is the importance of safety, caution, and thorough testing when developing and using new inventions. It’s essential to recognize the potential risks and take all necessary precautions to avoid tragic outcomes.
If an inventor dies during a test, does their ghost haunt the invention?
There’s no scientific evidence to support the existence of ghosts, but some might argue that the spirit of an inventor lives on in their creation.
Can an invention be cursed if it kills its creator?
While the idea of a cursed invention is an intriguing concept, there’s no evidence to suggest that curses are real. The tragic outcomes of these inventions can be attributed to human error, lack of safety precautions, or design flaws.
Which invention would make the best horror movie villain?
The Brazen Bull’s gruesome and twisted nature would likely make it an unsettling and terrifying horror movie villain. Imagine a killer who traps their victims inside a bronze bull and roasts them alive!
If you could bring one of these inventors back to life, who would it be and why?
This is a subjective question, but some might choose Franz Reichelt, the Flying Tailor, as his parachute suit idea was innovative and had the potential to save lives if properly developed and tested.
What’s the weirdest invention-related dream you’ve ever had?
In general, I don’t remember my dreams, but I’m sure you’ve had some pretty strange invention-related dreams! Feel free to share them with me if you’d like.