Over a 100 years to this day, a Chicago inventor Ives McGaffrey patented his creation — the vacuum cleaner. It was a safe enough invention but history reveals, others of his kind were not half as lucky. They learned the hard way inventions are fickle mistresses
Few nations in the world can compete with Russia when it comes to producing top notch scientists. Having laid the groundwork for cybernetics and systems theory, the physician, philosopher, economist, and revolutionary, Alexander Bogdanov developed an interest in the possibility of human rejuvenation through blood transfusions. Convinced that he could prolong the human lifespan and achieve eternal youth and bodily revitalization, he undertook a number of ill conceived blood transfusions, ultimately resulting in his death. However it was due to him that Russia established its first blood bank.
Thomas Midgley Jr — Pulled Apart
Was an American chemist known best for having developed the tetra-ethyl lead (TEL) additive to gasoline and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). His legacy might now be contentiously but back then, he was lauded for his contributions and had the distinction of mroe than a hundred patents. However, he eventually contracted Polio and lead poisoning and was left severely disabled in his bed. Never one to give up and admit defeat, Thomas designed and created a complex system of pulleys and ropes that enabled him to life himself from the bed. Tragically, he was strangled by one of the pulleys and died at the age of 55.
Horace Lawson Hunley — Underwater Adventures
As inventions go, they don’t get much better than this. A marine engineer for the Confederate army, H.L. Hunley gained fame for having first laid plans for the submarine during the Civil War. He converted a steam boiler into a Confederate submarine the could be propelled at four knots by a hand-driven screw. The invention though suffered from major glitches and had a dismal safety record of five crew members dying on the first submarine run. In the second accident the submarine was stranded on the bottom and Horace Lawson Hunley himself was asphyxiated with eight other crew members. Tragically, the Confederate Army recovered the submarine, improvised on the designs and were able to successfully make a third attempt to attack and were proved successful. However it sank soon after. Lost for 132 years, the Hunley was eventually recovered at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.
The modern printing press owes its origins to the American inventor William Bullock whose 1863 invention of the rotary printing press helped revolutionize the printing industry. For the first time, a press could mass produce due to its great speed and efficiency. While its unclear about if he slipped or if he was trying to kick the machine, Bullock had his leg crushed under one of the machines. Lack of modern medicine meant that his foot became gangrenous, and he succumbed.
Otto Lilienthal — The Glider King
Having founded the science of aerodynamics, he was known as the first successful aviator in history. He was the first person to make repeated successful gliding flights, earning him the epithet — Glider King. Thanks to his efforts, propelled by news media, people (including the Wright Brothers) for the first time began to consider the possibility of flying machines as reality. On 9th August 1896, he undertook what would be his last flight. The German’s glider stalled and went into a nose dive. He fell 17 meters, breaking his spine and died the next day. Before his death he built 15 models of monoplanes and 3 biplanes.
Back in 1698, on the coast of England, architect Henry Winstanley did something that was previous considered impossible — he built a lighthouse on a rock. He lit 50 candles at the top of his invention and called it the Eddystone Lighthouse.?For five years, it was celebrated by the mariners and locals in Plymouth. But the prevailing weather conditions had worn out the building. Winstanley reinforced the walls with stone and rings of iron. But it still didn’t suit his satisfaction, so ignoring the weather reports he went to make repairs. It was then the “Great Storm,” struck and the lighthouse collapsed and took with it, Winstanley. When the locals came out the next day, they discovered only pieces of metal left.
Franz Reichelt — The Flying Tailor
History reveals, many Frenchmen have been fascinated with flying. ?One such man was a tailor named Franz Reichelt who thought he had built a suit that would allow him to fly. After a few test runs from the fifth floor of his Building, in 1912, convincing authorities that he would be strapping the suit to a dummy, Reichelt climbed (what was then the tallest building in the world) Eiffel Tower and threw himself off. A lethal mistake it proved to be as the suit not only failed to fly but didn’t even break his fall. Ironically, only a year previously an American Grant Morton jumped off a plane with a working parachute. If only Rechelt had known what we now know.
Marie Curie — The Radioactive Lady
We all know the story. Perhaps the most notable among tragedies is the one of the two-time Nobel Prize winning physicist and chemist Madam Curie for having given us the elements radium and polonium. While radon, the gas emitted by radium, was used to treat soldiers during WWI, the elements were later recognised to have deadly side effects. Adding to her list of contributions, Madame Curie also founded the Curie Institutes in Paris and Warsaw, which remain major centres of medical research today. But much too late. After spending a lifetime with the radioactive substances, she died on July 4, 1934, of aplastic anaemia caused by radiation exposure.