Sylvester H. Roper, inventor of the eponymous steam-powered bicycle, died of heart attack or subsequent crash during a public speed trial in 1896. It is unknown whether the crash caused the heart attack or vice-versa.
Franz Reichelt (1879–1912), a tailor, fell to his death off the first deck of the Eiffel Tower while testing his invention, the coat parachute. It was his first ever attempt with the parachute and he had told the authorities in advance that he would test it first with a dummy.
Horace Lawson Hunley (died 1863, age 40), Confederate marine engineer and inventor of the first combat submarine, CSS Hunley, died during a trial of his vessel. During a routine exercise of the submarine, which had already sunk twice previously, Hunley took command. After failing to resurface, Hunley and the seven other crew members drowned.
Thomas Andrews (shipbuilder) (7 February 1873 – 15 April 1912) was an Irish businessman and shipbuilder; managing director and head of the drafting department for the shipbuilding company Harland and Wolff in Belfast, Ireland. Andrews was the naval architect in charge of the plans for the ocean liner RMS Titanic. He was travelling on board the Titanic during its maiden voyage when it hit an iceberg on 14 April 1912 and was one of the 1,507 people who perished in the disaster.
Thomas Midgley, Jr. (1889–1944) was an American engineer and chemist who contracted polio at age 51, leaving him severely disabled. He devised an elaborate system of strings and pulleys to help others lift him from bed. This system was the eventual cause of his death when he was accidentally entangled in the ropes of this device and died of strangulation at the age of 55. However, he is more famous—and infamous—for developing not only the tetraethyl lead (TEL) additive to gasoline, but also chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).
Alexander Bogdanov (22 August 1873 – 7 April 1928) was a Russian physician, philosopher, science fiction writer and revolutionary of Belarusian ethnicity who started blood transfusion experiments, apparently hoping to achieve eternal youth or at least partial rejuvenation. He died after he took the blood of a student suffering from malaria and tuberculosis, possibly due to blood type incompatibility.
Sabin Arnold von Sochocky invented the first radium-based luminescent paint, but eventually died of aplastic anemia resulting from his exposure to the radioactive material, "a victim of his own invention."
Publicity and entertainment
Karel Soucek (19 April 1947 – 20 January 1985) was a Canadian professional stuntman who developed a shock-absorbent barrel. He died following a demonstration involving the barrel being dropped from the roof of the Houston Astrodome. He was fatally wounded when his barrel hit the rim of the water tank meant to cushion his fall.
Valerian Abakovsky (1895–1921) constructed the Aerowagon, an experimental high-speed railcar fitted with an aircraft engine and propeller traction; it was intended to carry Soviet officials. On 24 July 1921, a group led by Fyodor Sergeyev took the Aerowagon from Moscow to the Tula collieries to test it, with Abakovsky also on board. They successfully arrived in Tula, but on the return route to Moscow the Aerowagon derailed at high speed, killing everyone on board, including Abakovsky (at the age of 25).
Max Valier (1895–1930) invented liquid-fuelled rocket engines as a member of the 1920s German rocketeering society Verein für Raumschiffahrt. On 17 May 1930, an alcohol-fuelled engine exploded on his test bench in Berlin, killing him instantly.
Wan Hu, a sixteenth-century Chinese official, is said to have attempted to launch himself into outer space in a chair to which 47 rockets were attached. The rockets exploded, and it is said that neither he nor the chair were ever seen again.
^"RADIUM PAINT TAKES ITS INVENTOR'S LIFE; Dr. Sabin A. von Sochocky Ill a Long Time, Poisoned by Watch Dial Luminant. 13 BLOOD TRANSFUSIONS Death Due to Aplastic Anemia-- Women Workers Who Were Stricken Sued Company.", The New York Times, November 15, 1928.