10 Inventors Who Were Tragically Killed By Their Own Inventions

As humanity pursues to learn about the unknown, there’s always a risk. Only with trial and error can we determine the safety of one’s findings. Not always do these trials go exactly as planned. Throughout history, many men and women have risked their lives for the sake of humanity. Some have dedicated their lives for the progress of all men, women and children. Some of those processes cost them their lives, but without their inventions we would have never achieved the knowledge in certain fields. They made valuable contributions for mankind, but never in their dreams thought that it could be their ultimate downfall. Here are 10 such inventors, whose inventions turned out to be the reason of their last breath on Earth.




1. Max Valier

Valier died at the age of 35 when he decided to conduct an experiment on a combustion chamber without safety equipment.

Max Valier and his inventions
Image Source: 1, 2

Max Valier, one of the earliest humans to foresee the potential in rockets, founded the German Verein für Raumschiffahrt or Spaceflight Society. Between 1928 and 1929, Valier collaborated with Fritz von Opel to create rocket-powered cars. Valier focused on the idea of creating liquid-fuelled rocket vehicles and while alive, tested one liquid propulsion-based rocket car.

In 1930, at the age of 35, Valier decided to conduct an experiment with kerosene mixed water and oxygen. The first and second trial was successful and motivated him to go for a third one; just to be sure. Valier conducted all of the tests without wearing any safety equipment. The experimental setup that Valier made malfunctioned, resulting in an explosion; which ultimately claimed his life. (source)

2. Henry Smolinski

Smolinski built a commercially viable flying car but died during a test flight.

Henry Smolinski
Image Source: Wikimedia

Henry Smolinski always dreamed of creating a flying car. In hopes of pursuing his dream, Smolinski quit his job at Northrop and started Advanced Vehicle Engineers. By 1973, the company he created managed to build two prototypes; namingly AVE Mizars. The prototypes worked by fusing the rear end of a Cessna Skymaster airplane to the back of a car. The design allowed anyone to attach or detach the rear end without much effort. The invention gained people’s attention alarmingly fast and so, the production was set to begin in 1974.

However, in 1973, as Smolinski and his friend Harold Blake were performing a test flight, the wing strut detached from the vehicle and caused it to crash. An initial investigation revealed that the failure in the wing strut was caused due to bad welds. Sadly, both Smolinski and Blake died in the crash. (source)




3. Franz Reichelt

Franz Reichelt, an Austrian-born French tailor designed his own wingsuit and jumped from the top of the Eiffel Tower; to his death.

On February 4, 1912, Franz Reichelt climbed to the top of Eiffel Tower to prove that his invention was successful. He informed French authorities that the test would be performed using a dummy but upon reaching there, changed his mind. He was quoted saying,

“I want to try the experiment myself and without trickery, as I intend to prove the worth of my invention.”

His friends tried to dissuade him, reminding him of the previous test fails with the dummies as well as the wind speed and other factors. Reichelt believed that his invention would not fail him and he would prevail victorious from the leap of faith. At 8:22 AM, as crowds gathered to watch the man jump from the Eiffel Tower, 30 other journalists joined to witness the huge step for mankind. Reichelt jumped, but his parachute immediately folded around him. He plummeted 187 feet below and hit the rock hard ground. The impact was powerful enough to create a 5.9 in. deep crater. Reichelt was killed instantaneously from the impact. (source)

4. Francis Edgar Stanley

The American businessman crashed into a woodpile while driving a Stanley Steamer.

Francis Edgar Stanley
Image Source: Stanley Museum

Francis Edgar Stanley and his brother Freelan Oscar Stanley were the founders of the Stanley Motor Carriage Company. The company built the Stanley Steamer; a steam engine-based car. Before entering the automobile business, the brothers ran a successful business in photo studios. They also patented the first airbrush that was capable of colorizing photos.





On July 13, 1918, F.E. Stanley was driving a Stanley Steamer and was focusing on maintaining distance from farm wagons traveling side by side on the road. He was focused on the farm wagons and wasn’t paying attention to what was going on in front of him. F.E. Stanley crashed his steamer into a woodpile, which ultimately claimed his life. (source)

5. Horace Lawson Hunley

Hunley, who had a thing for submarines, died when he and seven crewmembers sank in the waters off Charleston, South Carolina.

Horace Lawson Hunley

Horace L. Hunley was an inventor, who also happened to be a member of the Louisiana state legislature. He helped design and build three different models during the Civil War. His first design was intentionally sunk in 1862. His second design malfunctioned and went under in Mobile Bay in Alabama. His third and final design proved to be a big accomplishment, but came with a hefty price; his own life.





On October 15, 1863, Hunley, along with seven crewmembers, were cruising through the waters off Charleston, South Carolina. Hunley had funded the project himself. As the submarine was proving its worth, a technical malfunction caused the chamber to burst and sink; killing all aboard. (source)

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