List of inventors killed by their own invention

This is a list of people whose deaths were in some manner caused by or directly related to a product, process, procedure, or other technological innovation that they invented or designed.

Ill-fated inventors



The death of Franz Reichelt (d. 1912), who jumped off the Eiffel Tower expect­ing his con­trap­tion to act as a parachute.




Submarine Torpedo Boat H.L. Hunley, Dec. 6, 1863 by Conrad Wise Chapman (1864)
  • Henry Winstanley (1644–1703) designed and built the world's first offshore lighthouse[22] on the Eddystone Rocks in Devon, England between 1696 and 1698. Boasting of the safety of his invention, he expressed a desire to shelter inside it "during the greatest storm there ever was".[23] During the Great Storm of 1703, the lighthouse was completely destroyed with Winstanley and five other men inside. No trace of them was found.[24]
  • John Day (c. 1740–1774) was an English carpenter and wheelwright who died during a test of his experimental diving chamber.[25]
  • Horace Lawson Hunley (1823–1863) was a Confederate American marine engineer who built the H. L. Hunley[26] submarine and perished inside it as a member of the second crew to face drownings while testing the experimental vessel. After Hunley's death, the Confederates resurfaced the ship for another mission that proved fatal for its own crew: the successful sinking of the USS Housatonic during the American Civil War. The feat made the H. L. Hunley the first submarine to sink an enemy warship in wartime.
  • Karl Flach (1821–1866) was a German living in Valparaiso, Chile. He built the submarine Flach (brother of the Peruvian "Toro", sunk, refloated by the Chilean Navy and then disappeared, both events in the Saltpeter War) at the request of the Chilean government, in response to the bombing of Valparaíso. He died after the submarine failed to rise, along with his son and other sailors.
  • Julius H. Kroehl (1820–1867), a German-American inventor and former Union Navy contractor, is thought to have died of decompression sickness after experimental dives with the Sub Marine Explorer, which he co-designed and constructed with his business partner Ariel Patterson.[27]
  • Cowper Phipps Coles (1819–1870) was a Royal Navy captain who drowned with approximately 480 others in the sinking of HMS Captain, a masted turret ship of his own design.[28]
  • William Pitt (1841–1909) was a Canadian ferryman who designed the underwater cable ferry as means of improving the former ferry used to connect the Kingston Peninsula to the Kennebecasis Valley in New Brunswick. In 1909, Pitt died after sustaining injuries caused by falling into his ferries' machinery.[29]
  • Thomas Andrews (1873–1912), the naval architect of the Titanic, designed his famous vessel while serving as the managing director and head of the drafting department of the shipbuilding company Harland and Wolff in Belfast, Ireland. He was aboard the Titanic during her maiden voyage and perished alongside approximately 1,500 others when the ship hit an iceberg and sank on 14 April 1912. Andrews' body was never recovered.
  • Stockton Rush (1962–2023) was a pilot, engineer, and businessman who oversaw the design and construction of the OceanGate submersible Titan, used to take tourists to view the wreck of the Titanic. On 18 June 2023, the craft imploded during a dive to the Titanic, killing Rush and four other passengers.[30] Rush had spent years staunchly defending his unregulated design, claiming that "at some point, safety is just pure waste. I mean, if you just want to be safe, don't get out of bed, don't get in your car, don't do anything".[31]


  • Alexander Bogdanov (1873–1928) was a Russian polymath, Bolshevik revolutionary and pioneer haemotologist who founded the first Institute of Blood Transfusion in 1926. He died from acute hemolytic transfusion reaction after carrying out an experimental mutual blood transfusion between himself and a 21-year-old student with an inactive case of tuberculosis. Bogdanov's hypotheses were that the younger man's blood would rejuvenate his own aging body, and that his own blood, which he believed was resistant to tuberculosis, would treat the student's disease.[32][33]
  • 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 entangled in the ropes and died of strangulation at the age of 55. However, he is better known for two of his other inventions: the tetraethyl lead (TEL) additive to gasoline, and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).[34][35][36]

Publicity and entertainment

  • Karel Soucek (1947–1985) was a Czech professional stuntman living in Canada 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 injured when his barrel hit the rim of the water tank meant to cushion his fall.[37]


Valerian Abakovsky's Aerowagon, a propeller-driven wooden railcar which crashed in 1921, killing Abakovsky and six others
  • Webster Wagner (1817–1882) died in a train accident, crushed between two of the railway sleeper cars he had invented.[38]
  • Henri Thuile (died 1900), inventor of the large high-speed Thuile steam locomotive, died during a test run between Chartres and Orléans. Conflicting accounts indicate that he was either thrown from the derailing locomotive, hitting a telegraph pole,[39] or that he simply leaned too much and was instantly killed by hitting his head against a piece of bridge scaffolding.[40]
  • Valerian Abakovsky (1895–1921) constructed the Aerowagon, an experimental high-speed railcar fitted with an aircraft engine and propeller traction, intended to carry Soviet officials. On 24 July 1921, it derailed at high speed, killing 7 of the 22 on board, including Abakovsky.[41]


  • Max Valier (1895–1930) invented liquid-fuelled rocket engines as a member of the 1920s German rocket society Verein für Raumschiffahrt. On 17 May 1930, an alcohol-fuelled engine exploded on his test bench in Berlin, killing him instantly.[42]
  • Mike Hughes (1956–2020) was killed when the parachute failed to deploy during a crash landing while piloting his homemade steam-powered rocket.[43]

Popular legends 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". The New York Times. 4 October 1903. Retrieved 22 November 2014.
  3. ^ Doris A. Isaacson, ed. (1970). Maine: A Guide "Down East" (2nd ed.). Rockland, Maine: Courier-Gazette, Inc. p. 386. (First edition).
  4. ^ "F. S. Duesenberg Dies of Auto Injury". The New York Times. 27 July 1932. p. 17.
  5. ^ Boitani, Piero (2007). Winged words: flight in poetry and history. University of Chicago Press. p. 38. ISBN 978-0-226-06561-8. Retrieved 22 November 2014 – via Google Books.
  6. ^ [1] Science and Society
  7. ^ Biography of Otto Lilienthal Lilienthal Museum
  8. ^ 2003 Personal Accounts Darwin Awards
  9. ^ Great Britain Patent GB191026658
  10. ^ Ralph S. Cooper, D.V.M. "Aurel Vlaicu at". Retrieved 22 November 2014.
  11. ^ Morris, Neil (2010). From Fail to Win, Learning from Bad Ideas: Transportation. Heinemann-Raintree Library. ISBN 978-1-4109-3911-1.
  12. ^ Soniak, Matt, "The Flying Pinto That Killed Its Inventor", Mental Floss, July 30, 2012 Accessed 26 April 2023
  13. ^ "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.
  14. ^ "Michael Robert Dacre". Archived from the original on 2023-04-30. Retrieved 2023-04-26.
  15. ^ Franco, Michael, "Death by Invention: 5 Inventors who Died by Their Own Work", How Stuff Works? Accessed 26 April 2023
  16. ^ "Marie Curie". Retrieved 27 September 2020.
  17. ^ "United States Patent 61996". Retrieved 22 November 2014.
  18. ^ "United States Patent 100,367". Retrieved 22 November 2014.
  19. ^ "Inventors killed by their own inventions". Discovery News. Retrieved 2010-10-30.
  20. ^ "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. 1928-11-15. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2023-07-10.
  21. ^ "Sabin Arnold von Sochocky". geni_family_tree. 1883. Retrieved 2023-07-10.
  22. ^ Clingan, Ian C., lighthouse (coastal navigation), Encyclopaedia Britannica, retrieved 2 July 2023
  23. ^ Hart-Davis, Adam (2002). Henry Winstanley and the Eddystone Lighthouse. Thrupp, Gloucestershire: Sutton Company Limited. p. 170. ISBN 978-0-7509-1835-0.
  24. ^ "Eddystone Lighthouse History". Eddystone Tatler Ltd. Archived from the original on 2 May 2006. Retrieved 7 September 2006.
  25. ^ Churchill, Dennis (2011). "The First Submariner Casualty" (PDF). In Depth (32): 5–6. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 July 2011. Retrieved 7 June 2011.
  26. ^ "The Birth of Undersea Warfare – H.L. Hunley". Undersea Warfare: The Official Magazine of the U.S. Submarine Force. United States Navy. September 17, 2011. Archived from the original on October 16, 2012.
  27. ^ "Sub Marine Explorer". Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 2010. Retrieved 2021-03-31.
  28. ^ Sandler, Stanley (2004). Battleships: An Illustrated History of Their Impact. ABC-CLIO. p. 32. ISBN 978-1-85109-410-3 – via Google Books.
  29. ^ Wright, Julia (12 October 2023). "Ferry tale: How cable ferries became a way of life in southern N.B." CBC News. Retrieved 11 December 2023.
  30. ^ Magazine, Smithsonian; Perrottet, Tony. "A Deep Dive Into the Plans to Take Tourists to the 'Titanic'". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved 2023-06-22.
  31. ^ McShane, Asher. ""Safety is just pure waste": Lost Titanic sub's creator made chilling comment in 2022 interview as search becomes "bleak"". LBC. Retrieved 3 July 2023.
  32. ^ Huestis, Douglas W. (October 2007). "Alexander Bogdanov: The Forgotten Pioneer of Blood Transfusion". Transfusion Medicine Reviews. 21 (4): 337–340. doi:10.1016/j.tmrv.2007.05.008. PMID 17900494. Retrieved 2 July 2023.
  33. ^ Krementsov, Nikolai (2011). A Martian Stranded on Earth: Alexander Bogdanov, Blood Transfusions, and Proletarian Science. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. pp. 99–100. ISBN 978-0-226-45412-2.
  34. ^ Bryson, Bill. A Short History of Nearly Everything. (2003) Broadway Books, US. ISBN 0-385-66004-9
  35. ^ Alan Bellows (2007-12-08). "The Ethyl-Poisoned Earth". Damn Interesting.
  36. ^ "Milestones, Nov. 13, 1944" Time, November 13, 1944
  37. ^ "35,000 Watch as Barrel Misses Water Tank: 180-Ft. Drop Ends in Stunt Man's Death". Los Angeles Times. Associated Press. 21 January 1985. Retrieved 18 August 2012.
  38. ^ "Meeting a Terrible Fate – Nine Persons Crushed and Burned in a Collision – A Train Crashing Into the Rear of the Atlantic Express – Nine, Perhaps Twelve, Victims Caught in the Burning Cars – State Senator Wagner Among the Dead – Narrow Escape of Many Others – Terrible Scene at the Wreck". New York Times. January 14, 1882. p. 1. Retrieved 16 October 2016.
  39. ^ Douglas Self. "The Thuile Cabforward". Retrieved 2023-04-26.
  40. ^ DH. "La locomotive Thuile Cabforward". Retrieved 2023-04-26.
  41. ^ Alexey Abramov / Алексей Абрамов By the Kremlin Wall / У кремлёвской стены Moscow / М., Politizdat / Политиздат 1978 pp./стр. 399 (in Russian)
  42. ^ "American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics". Archived from the original on 26 December 2011. Retrieved 22 November 2014.
  43. ^ Silverman, Hollie (February 23, 2020). "Daredevil 'Mad Mike' Hughes dies while attempting to launch a homemade rocket". CNN. Retrieved 23 February 2020.
  44. ^ "Perillos of the Brazen Bull". Archived from the original on 16 December 2012. Retrieved 25 July 2010.
  45. ^ "The Brazen Bull". Retrieved 1 October 2011.
  46. ^ Guisso, R. W. L., The first emperor of China, New York : Birch Lane Press, 1989. ISBN 1-55972-016-6. Cf. p.37
  47. ^ Fu, Zhengyuan, Autocratic tradition and Chinese politics, Cambridge University Press, 1993. Cf. p.126
  48. ^ "The Civilization of China, Chapter II: Law and Government". Archived from the original on 11 August 2015. Retrieved 11 August 2011.
  49. ^ Williamson, Mark (2006). Spacecraft Technology: The Early Years. IET. ISBN 978-0-86341-553-1.
  50. ^ Maia, Samuel (1933). "O primeiro aviador português: quem foi?" [The first Portuguese aviator: who was he?] (PDF). Arquivo Nacional (in Portuguese): 822–823, 831. Retrieved 23 February 2021.
  51. ^ Roughead, William (1951). Classic Crimes: A Selection from the Works of William Roughead. London: Cassell. ISBN 0-394-71648-5.
  52. ^ "Segway company owner rides scooter off cliff, dies". NBC News. Retrieved February 3, 2022. A British businessman, who bought the Segway company less than a year ago, died after riding one of the scooters off a cliff and into a river near his Yorkshire estate.

Further reading

External links