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, sometimes these quests end in disaster.
Let’s honour those forgotten geniuses by remembering them and their ultimately fatal inventions.
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.
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.
Images: Wikimedia Commons/Early Aviators
Franz Reichelt was a successful parachute pioneer until he tested his “wearable model” from the Eiffel Tower on February 4, 1912.
Animgif: 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: 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.
Images: Wikimedia Commons/lord_k/Infodon
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.
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.
Images: Library Of Congress/Library Of Congress
David 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 515km/h, the Bluebird went out of control, killing David instantly.
Animgif: 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 274km/h, impacting against his head.
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 6.3kg plutonium ball — called the Demon Core — bursted with neutron radiation.
Animgif: Fat Man and Little Boy (1989 Paramount Pictures)
Images curated by Attila Nagy