They believed that progress was worth the risk
The invention can be like walking a tightrope between the adrenalin of discovery and a pit of fire. Because like investments, they come with a level of risk and reward linked to them.
As we all know, risk and reward are usually directly proportional to one another — when one rises, so does the other.
Any doubters of this logic need only to review the following inventors and the creations, ideas, and methods that eventually killed them. The path of progress usually comes at a price, and probably always will.
Here are seven inventors that perished from pursuing new ideas.
Died from an infected blood transfusion
Alexander Bogdanov was considered a revolutionary. He was a noted Russian physician, economist, philosopher, and even a science fiction writer.
Among his countless scientific experiments was the notion of potential rejuvenation through the transfusion of blood. He demonstrated this by successfully giving blood transfusions to several people of note. One of which was Lenin’s sister.
Bogdanov later decided to give himself a blood transfusion from a patient that was suffering from both malaria and tuberculosis. To his surprise, he quickly died from these infections.
Cowper Phipps Coles
Died at sea after his ship capsized
A distinguished Royal Navy Captain named Cowper Phipps Coles invented the rotating gun turret for warships during the Crimean War². When the war ended, Coles quickly patented this invention and began constructing his own ship to utilize this revolutionary new design.
His new ship, named the HMS Captain, underwent several unique modifications that many engineers considered dangerous. Among them was the ‘hurricane deck,’ which raised the center of gravity of the entire ship — making it less stable and buoyant.
On September 6, 1870, because of its instability at sea, the HMS Captain capsized and sank. Coles died at sea as did most of its crew of 500 sailors.
Died from a lighthouse collapse
There was a famous English lighthouse architect named Henry Winstanley. He was also a noted painter and engineer. After losing two ships on the rocks at Eddystone, citizens turned to Winstanley for help.
In 1703, he completed the construction of the first Eddystone lighthouse. He wished to test the strength of his project and demanded to stay inside the lighthouse during a storm. The lighthouse caved in and collapsed during the storm, killing Winstanley along with five others.
Thomas Midgley Jr
Died from Strangulation
An American chemist named Thomas Midgley invented both CFCs and leaded gas. Although he was admired at the time, he is seen as having more impact on the Earth’s atmosphere than anyone in history. He is also considered responsible for more deaths than anyone else in history by many — because of his inventions.
Unfortunately, Midgley contracted both lead poisoning and Polio, which left him disabled and bedridden. Because of his limitations, Midgley created a sophisticated system of ropes and pulleys to lift himself from his bed. Sadly, he died from this creation after getting strangled by one of its pulleys.
Died from probable mercury poisoning
Karl Scheele was an amazing pharmaceutical chemist who discovered countless chemical elements. Among his most notable discoveries were tungsten, molybdenum, manganese, chlorine, and even oxygen — despite Joseph Priestley being the first to publish findings on oxygen.
Scheele also discovered a process that was very similar to pasteurization. However, he had a very bad habit of test tasting his discoveries. Even after nearly dying from a taste-test of hydrogen cyanide, he continued this habit. Then one day, he died from symptoms that indicated mercury poisoning.
Jean-Francois De Rozier
Died from a hot air balloon crash
Jean-Francois was a teacher of chemistry and physics. In 1783, he observed the world’s very first balloon flight. This experience gave him a strong passion for flight. He assisted in the untethered flight of a chicken, a duck, and a sheep. After this, he took the first manned flight in a hot air balloon — reaching an altitude of around 3,000 feet.
Not yet satisfied, De Rozier intended to cross the English Channel from France to England in a hot air balloon. This proved to be his last flight. After rising to 1,500 feet, the balloon deflated, and he fell to his death.
Died from radiation poisoning
The most famous scientist on this list, Marie Curie, was a French-Polish chemist and physicist who discovered several new elements, including polonium and radium. She also created the theory of radioactivity as well as the isolation of radioactive isotopes. In 1903, she was a joint winner of the Nobel Prize — along with her husband, Pierre.
On July 4, 1934, she died from aplastic anaemia, which was contracted from radiation exposure. Unfortunately, at that time, the dangers of radiation were not yet understood, and as a result, she conducted her work in the absence of any safety measures.
She was known to carry test tubes full of radioactive isotopes in her pockets and stored them later in her desk drawer — often commenting on how striking the blue-green light was that emitted from the substances in the dark.