Man is a naturally inquisitive animal, and without that inventive spirit we wouldn’t have landed on the moon or blown up the Death Star. Of course, man is also a damn fool. So it makes sense that this inventive spirit would occasionally result in dudes blowing themselves up Wile E. Coyote style. It is these intrepid pioneers of the human spirit who we are gathered here to honor – and make fun of – today. They invented some genuinely cool and important things, things that have transformed human history, but what separates them from other historical icons is that these seven inventors were all killed by their inventions.
7 Horace Lawson Hunley
Horace Lawson Hunley is best known to history as the man who invented the first combat submarine for the Confederacy during the Civil War. But, like all things southern in those days, Hunley was doomed to failure. It all started when he first tried out his new combat sub, and immediately fucked everything up. The vessel was almost captured and so Hunley was forced to sink it instead. He then tried to build another sub, which immediately sunk. But Hunley was undaunted, and built a third sub – which sunk during early tests and killed half the crew. Hunley, though, decided to spit in Darwin’s face and took command of the sub with a new, less dead crew. Naturally, it sunk again and everyone aboard, including Hunley died. But, all honor for Hunley was not lost as the vessel was then raised by the Confederacy and used in combat, where it actually managed to be the first sub to sink another ship – and then it sank again.
6 Ismail ibn Hammad al-Jawhari
Al-Jawhari is just one of many Muslim scientists, philosophers and inventors who flourished while Europe was flailing about in the dark ages. He is probably most notable for creating an Arabic dictionary sometime in the late 10th century, the influence of which is still seen in the Arabic language today. He also is known, though, for inventing a glider. Uh oh. Yes, Al-Jawhari invented his glider using two wooden wings and a rope, and then decided to test out his new invention by jumping from the roof of a mosque like some sort of medieval Red Bull Flugtag participant. Unfortunately, he did not have Red Bull back then, only his shitty wooden wings, and plummeted to his embarrassing death.
5 Franz Reichelt
In 1912, the Austrian born Reichelt was living in Paris and got caught up in the explorative spirit of pre-war Europe. Unfortunately, he was kind of an idiot. His invention, the parachute coat, attempted to finally solve – 900 years later – what Al-Jawhari tried to figure out with his homemade glider. Reichelt first tested his parachute coat on dummies, which he dropped from the top of his apartment building. Apparently, it worked once and failed every other time. Naturally, he decided to kick things up a notch and test it from a platform of the Eiffel Tower, and since it had worked so well with dummies (oh, wait…) he decided to test it on himself. Are we sure he wasn’t just trying to commit suicide? Anyway, in a shocking twist, he plunged to his death. He promised the authorities beforehand that he would only test it using a dummy, and, well, I guess he wasn’t lying.
4 Alexander Bogdanov
Bogdanov was a genius, a Marxist Russian scientist who was a driving force behind blood transfusions. Obviously, he made his mark. Unfortunately, he was also kind of nuts. The reason he started monkeying around with transfusions in the first place was because he was convinced it would give him eternal youth. Naturally, then, his transfusion work progressed largely because he was willing to experiment on himself. Bogdanov underwent 11 different blood transfusions and noted that his eyesight had improved, he had stopped balding and that he looked younger with each transfusion. His 12th didn’t work out so well, though, as Bogdanov swapped blood with a student suffering from malaria and tuberculosis. Whoops! To make matters worse, the two didn’t even have the same blood type. Of course, Bogdanov died, while the student apparently made a full recovery.
3 Thomas Andrews
Thomas Andrews was a master shipbuilder, who in the early 20th century decided to create his masterpiece. He designed this new super-ship and then decided to celebrate by taking part in its maiden voyage. The name of this ship? Yes, you guessed it, the Titanic. Like a boss, though, Andrews apparently assisted in saving the lives of many of the women and children on the ship and was last seen standing in the first-class smoking room staring at a painting above the fireplace while the ship sunk. His arms were folded and his life jacket rested on a table nearby. YOLO, I guess.
2 James Heselden
James Heselden was a self-made millionaire who bought Segway, Inc., makers of the Segway, and while he technically didn’t invent the Segway, I’m going to allow it because, in spirit, he belongs alongside every other dude on this list. After purchasing the company, an apparently carefree Heselden decided to take his new ride out for a spin. After presumably cruising around town on his Segway like a pimp, Heselden got a little too wild and drove his Segway off a cliff. Now, look, I get it, it’s always sad when somebody dies, but come on. That’s some Darwin Award worthy stuff right there.
1 Wan Hu
Wan Hu was a 16th century Chinese official who invented space flight. Well, sort of, anyway. The story goes that Wan, intrepid dreamer, decided he wanted to go to outer space. Instead of just getting high like you would expect, Wan tried to make his dreams come true. You see, 16th century China was also ahead of the curve when it came to fireworks technology, and so Wan did the sensible thing and strapped 47 rockets to a chair, lit those sons of bitches and blasted off into space. Of course, the chair and Wan blew up like the Challenger after liftoff, but nobody ever recovered a body so maybe, just maybe, Wan’s rocket-chair actually entered hyperspace. Today, a crater on the far side of the moon is named for Wan Hu, the world’s first astronaut, and he has inspired a legion of explorers, scientists, believers, and the cast of Jackass, and for that, we salute him.