The lovely James Harrison sent me a link to a Wikipedia page that lists inventors killed by their own inventions. Some unfortunate, some through over-confidence, some just plain idiotic.
Some of the stranger ones:
Ismail ibn Hammad al-Jawhari (died ca. 1003–1010) was a Muslim Kazakh Turkic scholar from Farab. He thought that with two wooden wings and some rope, he would be able to fly. Apparently his last words were: “O people! No one has ever tried what I am about to do right now. I am going to fly now. The most important thing to do in this world is flying. Now I am going to do that.” He didn’t. He leapt from the roof of a mosque in Nijabur and fell to his death. Splat.
In a similar vein, tailor Franz Reichelt (above) had a brand new invention: The Coat Parachute. Having told officials he was first going to test it using a dummy, on 4 February 1912 he climbed up to the first level of the Eiffel Tower and sprang off. It didn’t work. He died.
Li Si was chief advisor to Chinese emperor Qin Shi Huangdi. He invented a form of execution called The Five Pains, in which first the victim’s nose was cut off, followed by a hand and then a foot; the victim would then be castrated and finally cut in half at the waist. Li Si, however, said the wrong thing to Shi Huangdi, and in 208 BC was executed in this way. Yuck.
Wan Hu (below), a sixteenth-century Chinese official, is said to have attempted to launch himself into outer space in a chair to which 47 rockets were attached. The rockets exploded and, it is said, neither he nor the chair were ever seen again.
Researching this list I also came across a list of unusual deaths. Most of them are apocryphal, so here they are in note form:
c. 620 BC: Draco, Athenian law-maker, was smothered to death by gifts of cloaks showered upon him by appreciative citizens at a theatre on Aegina.
6th century BC: Legend says Greek wrestler Milo of Croton came upon a tree-trunk split with wedges. Testing his strength, he tried to rend it with his bare hands. The wedges fell, trapping his hands in the tree making him unable to defend himself from attacking wolves, which devoured him.
207 BC: Chrysippus, a Greek stoic philosopher, is believed to have died of laughter after giving his donkey wine then seeing it attempt to eat figs.
1649: Sir Arthur Aston, Royalist commander of the garrison during the Siege of Drogheda, was beaten to death with his own wooden leg, which the Parliamentarian soldiers thought concealed golden coins.
1673: Molière, the French actor and playwright, died after being seized by a violent coughing fit, while playing the title role in his play Le Malade imaginaire (The Hypochondriac).
1814: London Beer Flood, 9 people were killed when 323,000 imperial gallons (1,468,000L) of beer in the Meux and Company Brewery burst out of their vats and gushed into the streets.
1871: Clement Vallandigham, U.S. Congressman and political opponent of Abraham Lincoln, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound while defending a murder suspect in court. Vallandigham was demonstrating for the jury how the victim could have accidentally shot himself while drawing the gun, when his own gun that he had believed to be unloaded, discharged.
…actually I think I’ll stop there. it’s getting disturbing. You can always look at the Darwin Awards if you want more.