The demise of clever idiots


03 Sunday 03rd October 2010

History is littered with idiots, people who have no common sense. I’m not talking about your run-of-the-mill, unknown, remember-that-time-he-walked-into-a-lamppost nobody, either. I’m talking about the educated, well-to-do members of upper class society. Idiots. It’s amazing how a person who can create amazing, revolutionary contraptions from scratch can make that one, fatal mistake that you or I could have told them would lead to their demise. Shame really.
Most of you will have heard by now that Jimi Heselden, boss and owner of the Segway Company, rolled himself off a cliff while using one of the very machines that made his fortune. It is a concern for all of us, as there is a risk of many more casualties due to the fatties that use them falling off and possibly landing on one of us. The unfortunate incident made us wonder how many geniuses meet their end at the hand of their own creations.
Karel Soucek – Killed while voluntarily thrown over Niagara Falls.
Professional stuntman Karel Soucek custom made his own barrel to be thrown over Niagara Falls. It was bright red with the words 'the last of Niagara's daredevils' emblazoned on the side. The first time he did it, miraculously, he survived. However, in light of this feat he built a museum at the top of the falls to let visitors remember his amazing lack of fear. Unfortunately he doesn't have any lack of pride, and attempted to do it again a short while later. This time, he wasn't so lucky.
Alexander Bogdanov – Transfused blood from a malaria patient into himself.
Bogdanov invented the blood transfusion, believing it was the secret to long life and staying young, and had several transfusions in his lifetime. Since then, this procedure has saved thousands of lives. Unfortunately, Bogdanov the teachings of medicine had not come quite far enough, and Bogdanov killed himself by transfusing Malaria-ridden blood from one of his students into his own bloodstream.
William Bullock – Crushed by a printing press.
When Bullock invented the printing press, the world of newspaper printing was revolutionised. The speed at which papers and books could be printed was increased ten-fold. One day, when Bullock was inspecting a faulty machine, he kicked the side of it in frustration. Doing so, he got his leg caught in the mechanism and he was pulled in, ending with his leg being crushed. The injury developed gangrene and Bullock died in an operation trying to remove it.
Franz Reichelt – Jumped off the Eiffel Tower in a parachute-coat.
Reichelt was very excited about his new invention, a coat that could double-up as a parachute. He had so much faith in it he decided to do a public display in the middle of Paris. The coat was originally strapped to a dummy and was to be thrown of the lower balcony of the Eiffel Tower, but at the last minute Reichelt strapped himself in instead and leaped off the Tower. The parachute part of the coat never kicked in, though, and he hit the ground and died in the middle of hundreds of spectators. There is a video of it here:
Li Si – Killed by the Five Pains punishment
Li Si was chief advisor to emperor Qin Shi Huangdi, and inventor of the Five Pains punishment. First, the victim's nose is cut off, then a hand, then a foot. Then the victim is castrated, and finally cut in half at the waist. Li Si was sentenced to death using this technique.
Thomas Midgley Jr – Strangled by his mechanical bed.
Midgley Jr was an engineer turned chemist, who made all sorts of discoveries in the field of chemistry. When he was 51, he contracted polio which left him extremely disabled. To help others help him move around in his bed he devised an elaborate system of ropes and pulleys around his bed. When he was 55, he became entangled in the strings and suffocated. 

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  • Guest: Compagne38
    Tue 05 - Oct - 2010, 18:24
    Many of these examples arent people being idiots but unfortunate accidents, i dont think you can compare someone disabled dieing in their bed due to their own invention to walking into a lamp post. The last few ones are just more tragic irony than people being stupid. Not sure why you focus on them perhaps being upper class either, kind of irrelevant. Its an interesting article though.
  • Guest: alexandrasherenow
    Tue 05 - Oct - 2010, 16:56
    The article doesn't say he invented it.
  • Guest: matt
    Tue 05 - Oct - 2010, 16:36
    Ok, I want put you straight on your first paragraph. Jimi Heselden didn't invent the Segway. In 2009 he led a British takeover of the US-based Segway company, the inventor of which, Dean L. Kamen, is still very much alive.