20 Inventors Killed by their Own Inventions
20 Inventors Killed by their Own Inventions

20 Inventors Killed by their Own Inventions

D.G. Hewitt - May 11, 2019

20 Inventors Killed by their Own Inventions
Karel Soucek and the barrel he wrongly hoped would keep him safe. Pinterest.

2. Karel Soucek thought the padded barrel he invented would protect him when he was dropped off a tall building – he was wrong

Working as a stuntman isn’t for the faint-hearted. But Karel Soucek was even braver – and perhaps even more foolhardy – than most of his fellow movie professionals. The Canadian fancied himself as an ingenious inventor as well as a daredevil. So, when he unveiled his shock-absorbent barrel and announced his intention of proving its worth by being pushed off the roof of the Houston Astrodome, huge crowds flocked to the Texan landmark to see Soucek in action. The plan was simple: he would climb into the barrel and then be pushed off the roof and fall into a water tank below. The special barrel would absorb the shock and Soucek would step out alive.

The stunt didn’t go to plan, however. Soucek was shut in his barrel and dropped from a height of 180 feet. Unfortunately, the barrel hit the rim of the tank before entering the water. Miraculously, Soucek survived the initial impact but died soon afterward. He was buried on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, the site of his greatest triumph. Despite his ignoble end, he is remembered as one of the last true daredevils.

20 Inventors Killed by their Own Inventions
Marie Curie was unaware of the dangers of working with radioactive material. Wikipedia.

1. Marie Curie won two Nobel Prizes but her research into radioactivity also killed her in the most painful way possible

The Polish physicist Marie Curie was famously the first female winner of a Nobel Prize. Moreover, she’s the only person to win a Nobel Prize in two different sciences, a remarkable accomplishment. However, her pioneering work came at a price. Curie’s biggest contribution to knowledge was her investigation into radioactivity. Above all, she is credited with discovering the radioactive elements of radium and polonium. She also found a way of isolating radium. Her experiments meant she was exposed to radioactive substances for prolonged periods of time.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the dangers of ionizing radiation were not yet known. So, when Curie began feeling sick in the 1920s, she carried on working as normal. Not only did she keep radioactive material in her personal desk, she even carried it around in her pockets. Curie died in 1934 at the age of just 66. Even in the end, she never linked her illness with her work. Today, with the dangers of radioactive material much better understood, the Nobel prize-winner’s research notebooks and even her personal cookbooks are kept in lead-line boxes and can only be consulted by scholars wearing proper protective equipment.


Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“35,000 Watch as Barrel Misses Water Tank.” LA Times, January 1985.

“This week in science history: Marie Curie dies.” Cosmos Magazine.

“Max Valier: International Space Hall of Fame.” New Mexico Museum of Space History.

“Thomas Midgley Jr.” Encyclopaedia Britannica.

“How Henry Winstanley became a hero in 1698.” The Guardian, November 2010.

“Demon Core: The Strange Death of Louis Slotin.” The New Yorker.

“Alexander Bogdanov: the forgotten pioneer of blood transfusion.” NCBI.

“James Douglas, 4th Earl of Morton.” The National Galleries.

“About Otto Lilienthal.” The Otto Lilienthal Museum.

“16 inventors who were killed by their own inventions.” The Independent, December 2016.