Technological progress is not the iPhone 5 or the Nexus 7. Technological progress is creating things that nobody has ever seen before, things that push humanity forward. You know, like building a machine heavier than air that freaking flies. Sadly, some times these quests end in disaster.
Let’s honor those forgotten geniuses by remembering them and their ultimately fatal inventions.
Engineer Henry Smolinski wanted a car that could fly, everyone’s dream. He called it the AVE Mizar. Sadly, Herny’s invention killed him when he crashed in 1973.
Michael Robert Dacre wanted to build flying cars too, a fleet of jetpod air taxis. He crashed when testing his invention on August 16, 2009.
Animgif source: orenikuwa
Romanian aviation pioneer Aurel Vlaicu built the first metal plane in the world, but his arrow-shaped Vlaicu II killed him while trying to cross the Carpathian Mountains.
Franz Reichelt was a successful parachute pioneer until he tested his “wearable model” from the Eiffel Tower on February 4, 1912.
Animgif source: British Pathé
Confederate marine engineer Horace Lawson Hunley tried to develop hand-powered submarines during the civil war—until he died testing his invention in South Carolina, on October 15, 1863.
Images by Naval History & Heritage Command
Valerian Ivanovich Abakovsky invented the Aerowagon, an experimental high-speed railcar powered by an aircraft engine. He died along with a few Soviet officials en route to Moscow when the Aerowagon derailed.
Another Soviet, Air Marshal Mitrofan Nedelin, died while testing his weapon of mass destruction: the ICBM R-16. The second stage engines ignited accidentally at the Baikonur test range, killing many people in the launch pad. Nedelin was the head of the program.
Animgif source: Roscosmos
Max Valier was a German rocket scientist and rocket-car maker who died before he could complete his invention. He was obliterated when one of his liquid-fueled engines exploded on his lab desk.
Otto Lilienthal was the first person to make repeated and successful gliding flights. Until his lucky streak ended on August 9, 1896.
Donald M. Campbell set both water and land speed records in 1964. On 1967, he tried to set the water record again on board his Bluebird K7. At 320mph, the Bluebird went out of control, killing Donald instantly.
Animgif source: British Pathé
Another speed demon, Welsh engineer John Godfrey Parry-Thomas, died in 1927 trying to set a land speed record on board his car: Babs aka Chitty Bang Bang 4. The right-hand drive chain broke while zooming at 170mph, impacting against his head.
Image source: Flickr
Harry Daghlian—interpreted by John Cusack in the 1989 film Fat Man and Little Boy—was a physicist in Los Alamos, working in the Manhattan Project. He died when a 6.3-kilogram plutonium ball—called the Demon Core—burst with neutron radiation.
Animgif source: Fat Man and Little Boy (1989 Paramount Pictures)
Images curated by Attila Nagy