The prayer of every inventor is that their creation becomes a great success and hopefully changes human life for the better. There is, however, another part of inventing that inventors tend to forget all the time; Safety. In most cases, the safety of an invention is not considered a priority until it has hurt someone or lots of people. Sometimes, the first victim of an invention is the inventors themselves, which becomes very sad when the invention goes ahead to make a big impact on the world. Here is a look at 10 things whose inventors never lived to enjoy them…
Thomas Midgley JR. was a great inventor, although he is believed to have caused the other half of global warming after industrial CO2 emissions. He held patents to more than 1000 inventions by the time he died in November 1944. His most regretted inventions were CFCs and leaded petroleum, which he invented to stop car engines from knocking. He was so keen on selling the idea of leaded petrol being safe for human beings that he washed his hands in tetraethyl lead, which caused lead poisoning on himself and many employees at his company.
The complications from the poisoning didn’t kill him immediately as he lived long enough to contract polio. He then invented a special machine that would help him stand up from bed despite the crippling impacts of polio. The machine’s pulley and rope system malfunctioned on November 2, 1944, and strangled Midgley to death. It is still right to call him one of the greatest scientists that ever lived despite the negative impacts of some of his inventions.
The Hot Air Balloon
The idea of travelling the world in a fully supplied hot air balloon is interesting and all but not in the 18th century when the technology was not fully developed. The only safety net between you and certain death was a heating chamber full of hydrogen gas. The first victim also happened to be the inventor Jean-Francoise De Rozier, a chemistry teacher turned engineer who loved the idea of floating above the Earth.
His first balloon flight was a success after testing the balloon with sheep and goats and finally himself. He then created a bigger balloon that he named after himself and decided to fly it across the English Channel. Well, that flight landed only 500 meters off the French coast, and there were no survivors.
The story of the first parachute is nearly as tragic as that of the first hot air balloon except for how far down the inventor fell. The victim, in this case, was Franz Reichelt, an Austrian tailor who had a shop in Paris. He developed an interest in creating a suit with a parachute that could deploy mid-air easily to be worn when you board an aircraft. It was a few years after the first person died in a plane crash, and the hunt for ways of making air travel safe was a priority for many people. His first experiments with mannequins from the roof of his shop failed terribly.
He did the first human experiment with himself as the subject and broke his leg in the process. He, however, made a breakthrough that he claimed had worked and requested a permit to carry out the experiment on the Eiffel Tower with journalists to watch. Instead of using a dummy as agreed, the tailor put the suit on himself and jumped to his death. No one has ever tried to reinvent his “parasuite” again.
The Flying Car
The idea of flying cars cross people’s minds all the time, and many inventors have tried to come up with the best version of the flying car, but most of them end up in the trash. In 1971, Henry Smolinsky, an engineer and his friend Hal Blake created the first working prototype of a flying car called Ave Mizar.
The idea was quite simple, they simply fit the wings of a small plane onto a Ford Pinto. The wings were detachable, and they could also fit into the car’s trunk. The idea was expected to revolutionize the auto industry until 1973 when Smolinsky and Blake went on a test ride on their flying car before launching commercial production. One of the wings fell off mid-flight, causing a crash that killed both inventors.
The Printing Press
The modern printer may not be so complicated, so you won’t expect it to kill anyone, but then, things happen, right? William Bullock’s rotary printing press in 1860 was the most advanced of its time with the ability to feed sheets of paper automatically and print up to 12,000 sheets in one hour.
The technology made it possible to print news in record time. The worst happened in 1867, while Bullock was repairing one of his machines when his leg was caught inside the press. His leg was infected, and this being 1860, treatment for infections wasn’t the best. He caught gangrene and died from the wounds.
Nuclear energy now runs the world, although it also powers the most dangerous weapons known to humanity. Its invention is credited to Marie Curie and her husband Pierre Curie, who were behind the invention of most radioactive elements known to us today. The couple won a Nobel prize for their works on Polonium and Radium, both radioactive elements.
Marie also became both the first woman to win a Nobel prize and also the first person to win two in their lifetime. She was, however, poisoned by her own inventions because she didn’t know the dangers of being exposed to radioactive elements at the time. She died of aplastic anaemia before she could enjoy the fruits of her hard work.
When you invent the first ship that can travel underwater, you need to be sure it can sustain high pressure, but the equipment needed to conduct the right tests was rare in the civil war. The big man was Horace Lawson Hunley, a lawyer from Louisiana turned engineer whose aim was to get the ultimate boat that could swim below ships at the harbour. His first sub was called Pioneer, and it sunk, killing four people during its launch.
Louisiana was already Overrun in the war, so Hunley moved to Alabama and created another Sub Marine that he named after himself and also joined the crew for its first ride. The ship sunk, killing him and seven other people. It was later raised and used to sink the first ship in the civil war.
Immortality is one evasive achievement, which is why this man’s ideas caused a stir all over the world. The scientist, in this case, was Alexander Bogdanov, a top biologist for the Soviet Socialist Party in the early 1900s. He allegedly performed an experiment that helped him reverse his balding. He also alleged to have improved his eyesight and also taken 10 years off his mortal life, all in a span of three years.
He attracted lots of volunteers who wanted to live forever in Bogdanov’s experiments, including Vladimir Lenin’s sister. It is not clear if any of the claims of success was true, but he got more famous and was even tasked with attempting to resurrect Lenin. A faulty blood transfusion in 1912, however, killed Bogdanov before he could make anyone immortal.
The Rocket Car
The idea of riding in a car that flies at the same speed as a bullet is scary but very interesting, which is why the idea of a rocket car was cherished in the 1920s and 30s. The inventor was the scientist Max Valier who wanted to use rocket engines to transform everything from sledges to spaceships.
He invented the first rocket car that set the record of being the fastest car in the world at the time at 145mph. His rocket sledge also set a world record after flying at a record 250mph. His success came to an end in 1930 when the fuel tank on his rocket car exploded while he was riding blowing him to kingdom come.
The idea of a paint that glows fascinates the world, except for the radioactive elements used, which even the inventor didn’t know about. The paint has changed the world in many ways as it is used to light everything from street lights to clocks. The inventor was Dr Sabin Von Sochocky of N.J, who invented the glowing radium-based paint. Like Marie Curie, Von Sochocky didn’t know how to handle radium in the early 1910s leading to radioactive poisoning that caused aplastic anaemia.