Ten inventors that was killed by their inventions. Over the course of civilization, thousands upon thousands of inventions succeeded beyond their creator’s wildest dream. But some were epic fails.
William Bullock invented the first modern printing press. While installing a machine for the Philadelphia Public Ledger, Bullock tried to kick a belt onto a pulley and got his leg crushed in the moving mechanism. He quickly developed gangrene and his leg needed amputating. During his surgery on April 12, 1867, Bullock died of complications.
Sylvester H. Roper invented the world’s first motorcycle. He called it a velocipede and it was actually a converted bicycle powered by a steam engine. On June 01, 1896, Roper was testing the machine on a bicycle racing track and was lapping the pedal-powered two-wheelers at over forty mph. Suddenly, he wiped out and died. The autopsy showed the cause of death to be a heart attack, but it’s not known if the attack caused the crash or if the crash caused the attack. He was seventy-two.
Horace Lawson Hunley invented the submarine. His first prototype trapped seven sailors underwater and killed them all. Hunley went back to the drawing board and came up with a new and improved sub, aptly named the H.L. Hunley, which he skippered himself. On October 15, 1863, Hunley was testing the Hunley off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina, when it failed to surface and again killed the crew — including Hunley himself.
Aurel Vlaicu was a Romanian inventor and test pilot of his own line of aircraft, called the Vlaicu WR I, II, and III. He achieved many notable firsts such as the highest, longest, and fastest flights. On Friday, September 13, 1913, Vlaicu’s luck ran out when he attempted the highest altitude flight ever — crossing the peaks of the Carpathian Mountains. The cause of the crash was never determined.
Valerian Abakovsky invented the Aerocar, also known as the Aerowagon, which was a steam-powered, propeller-driven rail car intended to whisk railway executives quickly across the vast lands of Siberia. On July 24, 1921, the twenty-five-year-old Abakovsky was whirling a group of twenty-two big-shots from Tula to Moscow when he approached a curve at over eighty mph. His Aerocar went airborne and killed six, including the inventor.
James Fuller “Jim” Fixx didn’t exactly invent running but he popularized it through his mega-bestselling book Complete Book Of Running. Fixx took up the sport after a lifetime of stress and bad habits. He became a world celebrity on fitness and healthy living. On the morning of July 20, 1984, he was out for his daily running fix and fell dead in his tracks on Route 15 in Hardwick, Vermont. His official cause of death was a fulminant heart attack. The autopsy showed his heart arteries were 70% blocked in the right anterior descending, 80% blocked in the left anterior descending, and 95% blocked in the circumflex. Runner Jim Fixx was fifty-two.
Max Valier was an Austrian rocket scientist who invented solid and liquid fueled missiles. Given his success with flight, Valier thought it’d be cool to make a rocket-propelled car. It worked, too, and he got it up to 250 mph. Trying to get even better, Valier experimented with alcohol as a combustible. That got away on him and blew up on his workbench, killing Valier and burning his workshop down.
Li Si died in 208 BC at age seventy-two of The Five Pains. That was a form of torture or “punishments” involving tattooing the face, cutting off the nose, cutting off the feet, castration, and finally death by exposure. Li Si was Prime Minister during China’s Qin Dynasty and fell out of favor with the Emperor. It should be noted Li Si invented The Five Pains.
Abu Nasr Ismail ibn Hammad a-Jawhari died around 1008 AD at Nishapur which is in today’s Iraq. He was a Muslim cleric, scholar, and a bit of an inventor. He was fascinated with flight so he built a pair of feather-covered, wooden wings and strapped them to his back and arms. To impress the Iman, Mr. a-Jawhari jumped off the roof of the mosque hoping they’d work. They didn’t, but to commemorate the first known attempt at human flight, they built a mosaic mural on the wall of the mosque. It’s actually quite pretty.
Wan-Humay may or may not have been real. Some say he was apocryphal, or doubtful, but one thing’s for sure — he’s a legend. Wan-Hu was reported to be a 16th-century Chinese official who tried to shoot himself to the moon by attaching forty-seven rockets to a chair and lighting them all at once. They say there was this huge bang and, when the smoke cleared, Wan-Hu and his chair were nowhere to be found. Today, there’s a crater on the moon named after Wan-Hu.