For These Scientists, Their Passion Was Also Their Downfall. Literally.

Brilliance | Dec. 12, 2017

These stories give a whole new meaning to the idea that no good deed goes unpunished. For these scientists and engineers, their breakthroughs were, unfortunately, also their ultimate downfall.

So How'd They Die?

Let's start with Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier, who took the first manned untethered flight in a hot air balloon. He died after one of his later flights crashed—and his death was the first known fatality in an air crash. (Centuries before, however, Ismail ibn Hammad al-Jawhari perished while attempting to fly. The wooden wings and rope he used could not keep him aloft, and he died after jumping off the roof of a mosque in Nishapur.) Alexander Bogdanov contracted malaria and tuberculosis in the 1920s, while experimenting with blood transfusions in a search for eternal youth. And in the late 1800s, X-ray pioneer Elizabeth Fleischman-Aschheim spent years using herself as a test subject in experiments, and later died of cancer as a result.

But These Were All A Century Ago...

Not so fast. Similar tragedies have happened more recently, too. In the case of British entrepreneur James W. Heselden, he died in 2010 after buying Segway Inc. and then accidentally driving one of the "human transporters" off a cliff.

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