Inventors Who Died From Their Own Inventions

Inventors are usually wacky people and sometimes they get killed by their own creations.

Eight inventors who died from their own inventions.

Otto Lilienthal

Lilienthal was known as the German Glider King in the late 1800’s. He was a pioneer of human aviation who was the first person to make repeated successful gliding flights. People around the world saw pictures of Lilienthal gliding through the air in newspapers and began to believe that human flight was a real possibility. The Wright brothers were greatly inspired by Lilienthal. In August of 1896 Lilienthal was in flight when he fell 56 feet to the ground and broke his spine. He died the next day saying before he died that “Small sacrifices must be made”.

Thomas Andrews, Jr. 

(Titanic on right nearly collides with SS New York leaving Southampton for fateful trip)

Designer of the RMS Titanic, Andrews Jr. died along with 1,516 passengers aboard the ill fated ship after it struck an iceberg on its maiden voyage. Andrews design did not allow the bulkheads of the ship to be sealed off so once the ship started leaking, the water just kept flooding to the top of each bulkhead and then over to the next part of the ship.

Marie Curie

Image via Wikipedia

Curie was a pioneer in the field of radioactivity and won two Nobel Prizes in the early 1900’s. But she did much of her work in a shed without any protective measures. In 1934 she died from aplastic anemia, which is a condition where bone marrow does not produce sufficient new cells to replenish blood cells. Her condition was almost certainly caused by her long time exposure to radiation.

Henry Winstanley 

Image via Wikipedia

Winstanley was an English engineer who designed and constructed the first Eddystone lighthouse which was finished in 1698. During construction, a French privateer took Winstanley prisoner causing Louis XIV to order his release with the words “France is at war with England, not with humanity”. Winstanley wanted to test his lighthouse by being inside during “the greatest storm that ever was”. In 1703 Winstanley got his wish when a great storm struck and took with it almost all traces of the lighthouse and Winstanley who was inside at the time. No trace of him was ever found.

Thomas Midgley, Jr.


Midgley Jr. was an inventor who developed leaded gasoline and chlorofluorocarbons and held over 1oo patents. Today Midgley Jr. is generally regarded as “the one human responsible for more deaths than any other in history” due to the negative environmental impacts of leaded gas and chlorofluorocarbons. In his 50’s Midgley Jr. developed Polio almost certainly due to lead poisoning which left him bed ridden. He invented an elaborate set of pulleys and ropes to lift himself out of bed. At age 55 he accidentally strangled himself with one of the pulleys and died from both of his inventions, leaded gas which poisoned him and the pulley operated bed which strangled him.

Alexander Bogdanov

Image via Wikipedia

Bogdanov was a Russian physician who experimented with blood transfusions in the 1920’s with the belief that they could help one achieve eternal youth or at least partial rejuvenation. Bogdanov underwent 11 transfusions and claimed he experienced improvement in his eyesight, the suspension of his balding and other positive symptoms. Bolshevik Leonid Krasin wrote to his wife that “Bogdanov seems to have become 7, no, 10 years younger after the operation”. Lenin’s sister Maria Ulianova also took part in Bogdanov’s experiments. In 1928 Bogdanov recieved a blood transfusion from L. I. Koldomasov who was suffering from malaria and tuberculosis, and Bogdanov died shortly thereafter.

Aurel Vlaicu

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Vlaicu was a Romanian engineer, inventor and airplane constructor who built the Vlaicu I and Vlaicu II airplanes. The Vlaicu I flew for the first time in June of 1910. In 1911, Vlaicu won several prizes and a great deal of money with his Vlaicu II plane for precise landing, projectile throwing and tight flying around a pole. In 1912, Vlaicu defeated 42 other aviators, including Roland Garros, at the Apsen Air Show in Vienna. In 1913, Vlaicu was killed in a crash trying to cross the Carpathian Mountains in Vlaicu II.

William Nelson


Nelson was an inventor working for General Electric in 1903 when he rode off a hill while testing a new motor he made for his bicycle and was killed instantly.

For more see Mad Scientists, Wacky Inventors and the Crazy Ways They Died and Twelve Bizarre and Wacky Deaths.

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10 Responses to “Inventors Who Died From Their Own Inventions”
  1. Kate Smedley Says...

    On March 31, 2009 at 10:38 am

    Fascinating tales again, thanks for sharing. What a tragedy for someone like Marie Curie.

  2. M J katz Says...

    On March 31, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    What a great topic to write about! I stayed glued to my screen until everything was read…and then wanted more! Wonderfully informative! :)

  3. Jo Oliver Says...

    On March 31, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    Another great one. Enjoyed reading about these inventions.

  4. Allana Calhoun Says...

    On March 31, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    You’re sneaking history into my brain with interesting articles like this! I always hated history. Nice job!

  5. nobert soloria bermosa Says...

    On March 31, 2009 at 5:48 pm

    that’s why i don’t want to become an inventor,lol…

  6. Ruby Hawk Says...

    On March 31, 2009 at 6:24 pm

    Astonishing stories, truth really is stranger than fiction.

  7. papaleng Says...

    On April 1, 2009 at 2:58 am

    very informative article.

  8. Melody SJAL Says...

    On March 27, 2011 at 8:34 am

    Fascinating facts, thanks.

  9. anndavey650 Says...

    On March 27, 2011 at 11:53 am

    Gotta feel a bit sorry for Midgely Jr lol!

  10. CHAN LEE PENG Says...

    On March 28, 2011 at 10:47 am

    They were all talented people but unfortunately died at younger age.

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