14. Thomas Midgley Jr. had more than 100 patented inventions, the most boring of which ended up killing him in his own bed
The American engineer Thomas Midgely Jr. had a curious mind. Born in 1889 and then educated at Cornell University, he excelled in both mechanical and chemical engineering. But it was in the latter that he really made a name for himself. Midgley is credited with playing a key role in the development of leaded gasoline. What’s more, he had more than 100 patents to his name, including several CFSs (even if many of his inventions have since been banned for environmental reasons). However, rather than harmful chemicals, it was an invention he came up with in his 50s that led to his death.
In 1940, Midgely was struck down with polio. The disease caused his muscles to deteriorate and he was left severely disabled. Still keen to carry on working, Midgley invented a system of ropes and pulleys designed to help him sit up and get out of his bed unaided. It worked for a while. But then, in the summer of 1944, the device went wrong. Its inventor became entangled in the ropes and died of strangulation. Notably, when Time magazine compiled a list of ‘The 50 Worst Inventions’ of all time, two of Midgley’s creations were on there – and the killer pulley system wasn’t one of them.