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Thursday, November 17, 2016

Killed By Their Own Inventions

     Franz Reichelt (1879 – February 4, 1912) was an Austrian-born, French tailor, inventor and parachuting pioneer, now referred to as the Flying Tailor. Reichelt had become fixated on developing a suit for aviators that would convert into a parachute and allow them to survive a fall should they be forced to bail out. Initial experiments conducted with dummies dropped from the fifth floor of his apartment building had been successful, but he was unable to replicate those early successes with any of his subsequent designs. He believed the tests weren't being conducted from a high enough platform so petitioned the Parisian Prefecture of Police for permission to conduct a test from the Eiffel Tower. He was finally granted permission in early 1912, but when he arrived at the tower on February 4, despite attempts by friends and spectators to dissuade him, he was determined to make the jump himself rather than use dummies. When he jumped his parachute failed to deploy and he was killed.  
     Horace Lawson Hunley (June 20, 1823 in Sumner County, Tennessee – October 15, 1863 off Charleston, South Carolina) was a Confederate marine engineer during the American Civil War. He developed early hand-powered submarines, the most famous of which was posthumously named for him, H. L. Hunley. Hunley served in the Louisiana State Legislature and practiced law in New Orleans. In 1861, after the start of the Civil War, Hunley joined James R. McClintock and Baxter Watson in building the submarine Pioneer. In order to prevent her capture, the boat was scuttled when New Orleans fell to Union forces in early 1862. After an unsuccessful attempt at building another submarine with McClintock and Watson, which ended in the vessel's sinking in Mobile Bay, Alabama, Hunley funded a third submarine on his own. Five men from the first crew of H. L. Hunley died during early tests when the boat was accidentally swamped by the wake of a passing ship through its open hatches; four managed to escape. A second crew was recruited in Charleston. On October 15, 1863, though he was not part of the crew, Hunley decided to take command during a routine exercise. The vessel again sank, and this time all eight crew members were killed, including Hunley. The vessel was later raised and used again in the first successful sinking of an enemy vessel (the USS Housatonic in 1864) by a submarine in naval history, but the submarine soon sank too. Hunley was buried with full military honors at Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston, South Carolina, on November 8, 1863.
     Thomas Andrews was an Irish shipbuilder who designed the Titanic. Andrews was a passenger on the ship’s maiden voyage and was one of the passengers who perished. 
     Karel Soucek (April 19, 1947 – January 20, 1985) was a professional stuntman from Hamilton, Ontario Canada who went over Niagara Falls in a barrel in 1984. He prepared for his stunt by researching previous attempts, by sending unmanned barrels over the falls to test the currents, and by dropping his barrel off the Niagara Escarpment in Hamilton to test its shock absorbing ability. Soucek's custom-made barrel was nine feet long and five feet in diameter and on July 2, 1984, the barrel was rolled into the Niagara River 1000 feet above the cataract of Niagara Falls with Soucek inside. In seconds, the barrel was swept over the falls a Soucek emerged bleeding but safe. He was fined $500 for performing the stunt without a license. He had also spent $15,000 on materials and labor and $30,000 to film the stunt, but quickly earned back all his costs from sales and interviews. Soucek decided to build a museum at Niagara Falls, Ontario in which to display his stunting paraphernalia. He convinced a corporation to finance a barrel drop of 180 feet from the top of the Houston Astrodome into a tank of water to pay for his project. On January 19, 1985, as Soucek was enclosed in his barrel which was released prematurely and began spinning as it fell. Instead of landing in the center of the tank of water, the barrel hit the rim. Soucek was severely injured but still alive when he was cut from the barrel. But, he died while the Astrodome stunt show was still going on. Famed stuntman Evel Knievel had tried to persuade Soucek not to go through with the stunt, calling it "the most dangerous I've ever seen"
     Max Valier (February 9, 1895 – May 17, 1930) was an Austrian rocket pioneer who helped found the German Spaceflight Society that would bring together many people that would later make spaceflight a reality. His rockets used liquid fuel which he believed could be used for both space and land vehicles. Less than a month after testing the first rocket car, one of the engines exploded, killing him on the spot. 
     Marie Curie (7 November 1867 – 4 July 1934) made extensive contributions and discoveries in the fields of radioactivity and radiation. But she exposed herself to lethal amounts of radiation. She was believed to carry radioactive materials in her pocket resulting in her death of aplastic anemia, a degradation of the bone marrow. 
     William Bullock (1813 – April 12, 1867) was an American inventor whose 1863 improvements to the rotary printing press helped revolutionize the printing industry due to its great speed and efficiency. In a bizarre accident on April 3, 1867 he was making adjustments to one of his new presses that was being installed for the Philadelphia Public Ledger newspaper. Bullock tried to kick a driving belt onto a pulley. His leg was crushed when it became caught in the machine. After a few days, he developed gangrene and on April 12, 1867, he died during an operation to amputate the leg. 
     Otto Lilienthal (23 May 1848 – 10 August 1896) was a German pioneer of aviation who became known as the Glider King because he was the first person to make well-documented, repeated, successful gliding flights. Newspapers and magazines published photographs of Lilienthal gliding, favorably influencing public and scientific opinion about the possibility of flying machines becoming practical. On August 9, 1896, his glider stalled and he was unable to regain control. Falling from about 50 ft, he broke his neck and died the next day. 
     Aurel Vlaicu (November 19, 1882 – September 13, 1913) was a Romanian engineer, inventor, airplane builder and pilot. While attempting to be the first to fly across the Carpathian Mountains in his old Vlaicu II the plane crashed and Vlaicu was killed. To this day the cause of the crash is unknown. Claims of sabotage were dismissed by the two men following him in an automobile who were also mong the first to inspect the wreckage. The most plausible cause was that the airplane stalled while landing with the engine off which was a common practice at the time.

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