15 Unfortunate Innovators Killed By Their Own Inventions

1Sylvester H. Roper

Sylvester H. Roper, the inventor of the eponymous steam-powered bicycle, died of a heart attack or subsequent crash during a public speed trial in 1896. It is unknown whether the crash caused the heart attack or vice versa.

2Valerian Abakovsky

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).

3Ismail ibn Hammad al-Jawhari

Ismail ibn Hammad al-Jawhari (died in 1010) was a Muslim Kazakh Turkic scholar from Farab who attempted to fly using two wooden wings and a rope. He leaped from the roof of a mosque in Nishapur and fell to his death.

4Marie Curie

Marie Curie (1867–1934) invented the process to isolate radium after co-discovering the radioactive elements radium and polonium. 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.

5George Jackson Churchward

George Jackson Churchward CBE (1857–1933), the former Chief Mechanical Engineer of the Great Western Railway (GWR), was struck and killed by a Paddington to Fishguard express, pulled by No. 4085 'Berkeley Castle'. The locomotive was of the GWR Castle class, a successful design by Charles Collett and greatly influenced by Churchward.

6Li Si

Li Si (208 B.C.E.), the Prime Minister during the Qin dynasty, was executed by the Five Pains method which he had devised.

7Fred Duesenberg

Fred Duesenberg, the German automobile designer (1876–1932) was killed in high-speed road accident in a Duesenberg automobile.

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8Harry K. Daghlian Jr. and Louis Slotin

Some physicists who worked on the invention of the atom bomb at Los Alamos died from radiation exposure, including Harry K. Daghlian, Jr. (1921–1945) and Louis Slotin (1910–1946), who both were exposed to lethal doses of radiation in separate criticality accidents involving the same sphere of plutonium.

9Sabin Arnold von Sochocky

Sabin Arnold von Sochocky invented the first radium-based luminescent paint but eventually died of aplastic anemia resulting from his exposure to the radioactive material.

10William Nelson

William Nelson (1879−1903), a General Electric employee, invented a new way to motorize bicycles. He then fell off his prototype bike during a test run and died.


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