The year is 2016, and technology is a lot farther advanced than it was 100 years ago. That is pretty much to be expected, as change is inevitable and people are creating new and improved ways to do things all the time. There was a time when we did not have computers, cell phones, or even automobiles to get around. Innovators developed ways to communicate, get to the next city or type out books in mass amounts. Almost every one of the people on this list thought that they had a better way to do something, but each one of them died in the process. The irony of each story is that they had all died doing what they invented (or were trying to create). Even though death is not a funny subject, some of these ironies are just downright silly.
10. Fred Duesenberg Had The Need For Speed
If you are a car enthusiast, then surely you’ve heard of a Duesenberg. In the early 1900s, people were just getting used to being on four wheels that were motorized. There were three major car companies that were developing mass production lines of vehicles: Ford, Chrysler and GM. They were designed for the average American to be able to afford a car, and Fred Duesenberg decided that he wanted to make something more worthwhile. Fred and his brother, August, had designed and built engines for airplanes while they were in the military, and decided to use their experiences to build a more expensive car that was fast and beautiful. The original Duesenberg, the Model J, was built in 1928, and sold between $8500-$18,500; depending on the designs of the body that the customer had desired. To put this in perspective; the first Model T Ford sold for $850, and most people could not pay that much money at the time. Most people had to wait a few years for the cost to come below $500 to buy one.
When most people were still driving their steam-powered vehicles and there were more than a few that was behind a horse and buggy, Fred Duesenberg wanted to go faster than the average 30 miles per hour on the road. His Model J had an eight-cylinder engine and over 250 horsepower. Fred and his brother used to race bikes as children, and dreamed of racing cars as they got older. Eventually Fred started competing in the world-famous Indianapolis 500, and would spend a lot of his time at fast speeds. In 1932, he was driving his creation on a freeway in Pennsylvania when he crashed from going too fast. He died shortly afterwards.
9. Alexander Bogdanov Dies While Trying to Become Immortal
Alexander Bogdanov was a man who lived in the former Soviet Union, and died in 1928 under extremely unusual circumstances. Alexander was a brilliant doctor who played around with politics for a little while, but was too busy in his other forms of work to become completely involved with such trivial matters. Instead, he wrote a few science fiction books; one in which people lived on Mars in a highly rational and almost utopian society. The only problem with that is that those Martians apparently had a secret to everlasting life, and the brilliant novelist turned his focus on trying to create the fountain of youth, so-to-speak. He began blood transfusions on himself, believing that he was going to live forever by depositing blood from young men and women into his own blood stream. Unfortunately, he didn’t bother to check for any type of diseases before doing this to himself. During his final transfer of blood, he did not realize that it was tainted by malaria from the young man he had gotten it from. He died shortly after making that lethal transfusion.
8. Francis Edgar Stanley Had The Original Stanley Steamers
Francis Edgar Stanley and his twin brother, Freelan Oscar Stanley were born in Maine in 1849. Before the world was overcome with cars and gas-powered engines, most people were getting from place to place by horse-drawn carriages and bicycles. After getting married, Francis was worried about his wife, who could not ride a bike and wanted to find a way for her to get around (other than a horse).
After observing a steam-powered engine at a fair, the brothers developed their own car company that consisted of automobiles that ran entirely on steam. In 1902, their company was called the Stanley Motor Carriage Company, and later was known by most people as Stanley Steamers. The brothers would race these cars up mountains to see how fast they would go, and would even try to compete against other vehicles that ran on gasoline. In 1918, Francis was trying to race his car up a mountain when he drove right into a pile of wood after swerving off of the road, whilst trying to avoid other traffic.
7. Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier Was Compared To Icarus
When I was very young, I remember being at a fair when they were offering hot air balloon rides. My brother had tried to convince me to go up in one with him, but I was too scared at the time. Even though I was not afraid of heights, I believe that I was more frightened of the landing than being up that high. Or it could have been the thought of my brother pushing me out of the basket at 2,000 feet in the air that stopped me from going on that trip (if you are a younger sibling, surely you understand the anguish). Either way, it couldn’t have possibly been as worrisome as the man who took the very first balloon ride that he had invented for himself.
Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier was a professor in Paris, France, who had a passion for the extraordinary. He also wanted to make the world a safer place by creating a type of breathing equipment that was used for workers who had jobs in areas where the air was highly polluted. It is said that this man was highly entertaining when it came to his teaching, and he did whatever he could to get students to listen to him. At one point, he sucked in some hydrogen to prove just how dangerous it was, and would blow it out over a flame causing an explosion.
When the professor was 31 years old, he had heard of two brothers who had invented a hot air balloon and released it above the country. Joseph-Michael and Jacques-Ètienne Montgolfier spent their time trying to perfect the balloon. They were scared to send a human up in the air, so their second attempt at flight was by using three animals: a sheep, a rooster and a duck. After two successful attempts, the brothers decided it was time for humans to attempt the journey. Jean-François volunteered for the flight, and brought along a local artist named Romains, to join him. Jean-François wasn’t completely satisfied with the construction of the original aircraft, so he designed his own for the flight. This new prototype was still a hot air balloon, but was situated underneath a helium balloon, in which he thought would give him more flight time. On June 15th, 1785, the two men set flight along the English Channel, but they didn’t quite make it home safely. Jean-François died while in his newly constructed invention, but his friend survived the voyage. Romains lived through it, but died shortly afterwards; most likely due to the terrifying experience he had endured during the trip. Even though this attempt was not successful, John-François’ creation is still in use today; referred to simply, as Roziers.
6. William Bullock Kicked The Machine He Created and Died
Way back before computers were able to print out books in mere seconds, a printing press was used. It was an extremely tedious process; a person would have to line up blocks that had letters and numbers, and hit them with a hammer in order for the ink that was on the back to show up on paper. The process was gradually improved by changing the type of materials used for the blocks (the blocks were changed from wood to cast iron), and machines would assist in the printing.
Richard Hoe invented the rotary press in 1844; which included cylinders instead of the original, flat-styles of the printing press. This made the printing much faster for those who were in the newspaper-making industry. William Bullock wasn’t quite satisfied with Hoe’s invention, so he created the Bullock Press. Instead of someone having to manually enter the paper, piece by piece, it was just one massive roll of paper on a loop. This press also allowed the paper to be printed on both sides, and was sliced when complete. This increased the printing speed and cut down on the time it took to create newspapers.
On April 12, 1867, just two years after Bullock created the new press, he was soon to collect the rewards from all his work when disaster struck. While watching over the construction of one of his printing presses at the Philadelphia Public Ledger, his leg got stuck inside a pulley and was severely injured. The leg was so bad that he developed gangrene, and unfortunately, Bullock died on the operating table.
5. Otto Lilienthal Dreamt of Flying and Did Just That
Two brothers, Otto and Gustav Lilienthal had dreamed of flying, and before the Wright Brothers made their first official flight in 1903 in an airplane, the Lilienthal brothers (from Germany) were creating wings that looked like they were right out of a horror movie. Otto and Gustav had created hang-gliders with massive wings that were used to hang onto while they practiced jumping off cliffs to see if they could fly. By 1891, Otto had already taken over 2000 flights with his self-propelled hang-gliders, and was becoming famous in the United States with his unusual invention. On August 9, 1896, Otto’s luck ran out when the glider he was using collapsed as he was flying it and crashed. He died shortly after that horrible accident.
4, Thomas Midgley, Jr Proves That Karma Exists
In 1921, Thomas Midgley was a highly educated chemist who had multiple inventions, but is now known as “the worst inventor in history” because of two products that he had created. The first being Freon, a chemical that most people know as the Chlorofluorocarbons (CFC’s) that are used in air conditioning units. Even though it is reported that Freon does not have negative health effects, it can cause major problems if people were to ingest it. It is invisible and odorless, so if you had a large Freon leak in your air conditioner, you may not know it until it was too late. It also destroys the Earth’s Ozone layer.
The other invention from Midgley was a chemical that he used that we know now to be extremely harmful. Even though he did not create lead, in 1923 Midgley was vice president of General Motors, and was looking for a cheap way to eliminate “knocking” in automobiles. They were already using ethanol, but there was no money to be made if this continued. He discovered that tetraethyl lead could be used to replace ethanol, but even in 1923 people knew that lead was not a good thing, so he gave it the name “Ethyl,” as to confuse consumers (and to make loads of profit).
In 1940, Thomas Midgley ended up getting polio (most likely from all of the fumes he had previously ingested), and was upset because he could not get in and out of bed. Since he was an inventor, he decided to create a pulley system to assist in the troubles he had in moving. It was so complex that Midgley ended up strangling himself to death in the ropes of his own invention.
3. Karel Soucek Went Over The Falls in a Barrel but Died in the Astrodome
In the video, you can see Karel Soucek going over Niagara Falls in a barrel in 1984. He had designed the barrel himself, and had a passion for extreme sports, and wanted to be “immortalized” in some way. But going over Niagara Falls wasn’t enough for Karel, so he decided to use the same technique to be dropped from the roof of the Astrodome in Houston, Texas, a year later. He was dropped from 180 feet in the air (in his specially-designed barrel), and was expected to land safely in a small pool below. Instead of the barrel landing in the tank, the barrel was spinning so fast that it hit the edge of the tank. The barrel was made to cushion the impact, but instead crushed his abdomen and chest. His skull was fractured, which killed him almost instantly. The audience had no idea what had happened and started cheering thinking that he had securely landed.
2. Li Si Died by the Sword
Even back in 200 B.C., politicians were creating scandals and ways to torture others. Li Si was certainly no exception. Li Si was the Prime Minister of the Qin Dynasty in 246 B.C., and wrote legal documents as well as being a politician. At first, he seemed to be a noble leader. Li Si created uniformity in all kinds of areas; including the chariots that people used. He also reduced the taxes that people paid, making him very popular among those in his country.
Eventually, Li Si had adopted the “Five Pains Method,” in which to torture or execute criminals. Sometimes it would even be without trial. These methods included horrendous acts of violence to the accused; including cutting off someone’s nose, their feet, and even as extreme as murder. It was rumored that Li Si had betrayed Qin Shi Huang (who was dead at the time) by tricking another into committing suicide. Others had found this out and he was charged with treason. Li Si was killed in 208 B.C. by being cut in half while onlookers watched, which happened to be one of his “Five Pains” methods.
1. Max Valier, The First Rocket Man
Max Valier had a fascination with rockets and explosions before safety was a concern. At least that’s what he thought, anyway. In the 1920s, there were no standards issued for lighting fires, no safety warnings on fireworks and if you wanted to have a demonstration with rockets, then it was all based on luck whether you survived or not. Max worked putting small rockets on trains, sleds and cars used for racing, while trying to get sponsored to earn money. These were basically over-the-counter rockets, and he grew tired with what were basically toys. Max switched over to rockets that were filled with liquid, and (obviously) more dangerous materials and much larger than he had previously. He had to mix fuel and oxygen together and since he wasn’t exactly sure how much of each needed to be added, it was quite a risky situation. The higher the mixture, the bigger the possibility of an explosion.
Max ran these tests for five months to see what different types of combinations he could use. In May 1930, he and a friend were experimenting with kerosene, water and liquid oxygen when the combustion chamber exploded. A piece of the rocket that Max was trying to test landed in his chest, killing him within ten minutes.