Picture of Fabio DeGouveia

Fabio DeGouveia

History if filled with stories of irony and invention. Not often do these topics cross paths. Today they do.


Table filled with tools for inventing and tinkering.

Hectic History: Inventors Who Succumbed to Their Inventions

Content Warning: Reader’s discretion is advised throughout the following article. Topics and content may be offensive to sensitive readers.

Ah, the sweet scent of irony – not quite the “eau de cologne” you’d find at your local fancy department store, but rather the kind that history books are marinated in.

It’s a peculiar fragrance that hangs heavily around the tales of inventors who, in both evident and unforeseen circumstances, fell victim to their genius.

Let’s unravel the yarn of these brave souls who, in their pursuit of innovation, found themselves a bit too close to their work … literally.

Franz Reichelt: The Flying Tailor Who Tailored His Last Flight

Franz Reichelt, also known as “The Flying Tailor,” didn’t just design avant-garde clothing; he stitched his fate with threads of audacity and a needle of ambition.

Reichelt was hell-bent on creating a parachute suit, which saw a noble cause manned by the inventor himself. The goal was to create and test the parachute suit himself by jumping off the Eiffel Tower.

Sadly, Reichelt’s design did not stand up to the test.

In 1912, Reichelt donned his invention, took a leap of faith, and plummeted to his demise. The suit failed to deploy, and Reichelt became the unwilling patron saint of his unique, parachute design.

Thomas Midgley, Jr.: A Chemical Romance with a Toxic Relationship

Fuel Pumps in a Service / Petrol Station

Thomas Midgley, Jr., had an affair with chemicals that makes Romeo and Juliet’s love story seem like a casual fling.

This chap single-handedly developed both leaded petrol and chlorofluorocarbons (these chemicals were used in developing gasoline as a whole but ended up being quite harmful to the human body).

Thomas inadvertently became the poster boy for environmental no-nos. The romance in his invention turned sour when Midgley contracted lead poisoning, a little from his creation.

In an attempt to overcome polio-related disabilities, he devised an elaborate system of pulleys and ropes to assist in lifting him from bed.

Tragically, this contraption strangled him in what one can only describe as a grisly Rube Goldberg machine accident.

Marie Curie: Glowing Achievements with a Radioactive End

African Chemist working with radioactive chemicals

Marie Curie, the queen of radium and polonium, shone brighter than her Nobel Prizes (yes, she had two) in the halls of science.

Unfortunately, much like getting too many X-rays at the dentist, her constant radiation exposure led to aplastic anaemia, which ultimately claimed her life.

Curie’s unwavering commitment to studying radioactivity without a proper understanding of the risks (which were undiscovered at the time) turned her story into a cautionary tale.

Notably, her research notebooks are still radioactive and will be for the next 1,500 years – talk about leaving a legacy!

Horace Lawson Hunley: Submerged in His Submarine Success

Interior shot of an antique submarine

Horace Lawson Hunley might have not been singing “Under the Sea” joyfully like a certain Caribbean Crustacean.

Hunley was the brain behind the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley, which was just as innovative as it was risky.

In 1863, during a routine test, the submarine plunged into the depths, never to resurface with its crew alive. Hunley, who decided to captain the vessel himself on that fateful day, sealed his watery fate. It was a submersion immersion experience he surely didn’t sign up for.

There you have it, a chronicle of the ambitious, the brave, and the slightly too inventive. It’s a humbling reminder that sometimes, in the march towards progress, one must take care not to march off the proverbial plank. Here’s to these martyrs – may your stories serve as inspiration and cautionary tales to tinkerers everywhere.

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