Fiction and cinema are rife with stories of inventors whose inventions leave them skirting the edge of disaster. In the film Young Sherlock Holmes (1985), the young Holmes befriends an eccentric scientist named Professor Waxflatter who’s forever trying to perfect his flying car. Given the number of times the professor has fallen from the cold air onto the hard ground, it’s a wonder he survives as long as he does.
More recent examples include mad scientist Walter Bishop on Fringe, whose invention of a portal that can allow travel between universes destroys his family and almost destroys the world, and Walter White, whose trademark “baby blue” costs him everything he has.
But arguably it wouldn’t be such a popular trope unless there was reality behind it. Dozens of inventors have been killed by inventions that they themselves invented. Tragically, some of these inventions were instrumental in paving the way for the modern era.
9. Henry Smolinski (a flying car)
Given all that we know today about the dangers of Pintos, it’s a wonder this invention ever got off the ground. In the early 1970s American engineer Henry Smolinksi invented a working flying car by taking parts of a Cessna aircraft and combining them with a Ford Pinto. He intended to use the car for aerial trips between airports. And it actually worked: Smolinski and an associate flew the car successfully, and were even preparing to market it for mass production, when the wings flew off during a routine test run and he plummeted to his death on September 11, 1973, taking his dreams with him.