Technology is supposed to make our lives better: our meat easier to chew, our water easier to carry, our ox carts easier to move. But all too often we weak, squishy, meat sacks of the human variety find ourselves on the wrong side of innovation.
The result? Deaths by tech that are almost too absurd to be believed.
Death by Peg Leg
What’s worse than being beaten to death by an angry mob of your fellow countrymen? Sir Arthur Aston, Royalist commander of the garrison during the Siege of Drogheda, found out in 1649. It’s being beaten to death with your own wooden leg because people think it has gold hidden inside. [Berkshire Royal History]
Death by Ball Lightning
Professor Georg Wilhelm Richmann of St Petersburg, Russia, was a pioneer in the study of electricity and among the first to perform electrical experiments. He also became the very first person on Earth to die by those experiments when he was struck in the head by a globe of ball lightning in 1753. [Physics Today]
Picture: Sarah Clark/Shutterstock.
Death by Beer Flood
Swimming in beer is not nearly as fun as it sounds. In 1814, seven people died when brew vats at the Meux and Company Brewery in London broke and spilled 1.487 million litres onto city streets, drowning some, fatally injuring others, and even giving one guy alcohol poisoning. [Badass Digest]
Death by Train
Mary Ward is the holder of another macabre first. In 1869, she fell from the passenger car of a train she was riding and was crushed beneath the wheels. Per an account from the King’s County Chronicle of September 1, 1869.
The vehicle had steam up, and was going at an easy pace, when on turning the sharp corner at the church, unfortunately the Hon. Mrs. Ward was thrown from the seat and fearfully injured, causing her almost immediate death. The unfortunate lady was taken into the house of Dr. Woods which is nearly opposite the scene of the unhappy occurrence, and as that gentleman was on the spot everything that could be done was done, but it was impossible to save her life.
She was the first person to ever die in a road accident involving motorised transportation. Oddly enough, her younger cousin Charles Algernon, helped design and build not only the train car that killed her but also went on to create the steam turbine. [Offally History]
Death by Molasses Wave
If you thought beer was bad, you should see what molasses does. In 1919, 21 people died and another 150 were injured when a nine-million litre tank of the brown goo exploded and unleashed a 60km/h wave of sticky death through downtown Boston. [Wikipedia]
Death by Criticality
In 1945, nuclear scientist Harry K. Daghlian Jr broke the first rule of the Manhattan Project — he accidentally dropped a brick of tungsten carbide onto a plutonium sphere. When the two elements met, the plutonium went critical and released a lethal dose of ionising radiation. Mr Daghlian Jr holds the dubious distinction of being the first person ever killed in a criticality accident. [MPHPA]
Death by Explosive Decompression
The Soviet cosmonauts Georgy Dobrovolsky, Vladislav Volkov, and Viktor Patsayev are the only three men in history to die outside of the Earth’s atmosphere. The trio perished when the Soyuz-11 spacecraft accidentally depressurised during re-entry in 1971. [Wikipedia]
Death by Robo-Arm
Robots may be just starting to take our jobs but they’ve already taken our lives. In 1979, Robert Williams died from massive head injuries inflicted by a 1000kg factory robot at the Ford Motor plant where he worked. [Newsbank]
Picture: Nataliya Hora/Shutterstock
Death by Helicopter Rotor
Boris Sagal, Ukranian film director and father to Katey “Peg Bundy” Sagal, died in 1981 while on the set of the World War III TV miniseries he was directing. He accidentally walked into a helicopter’s spinning tail rotor and instantly decapitated himself. [New York Times]
Death by “Unbreakable” Window
This is what happens when we place too much confidence in our technology. In 1993, Garry Hoy, a Canadian lawyer fell 24 stories to his death because the “unbreakable” windows that his firm had installed didn’t, in fact, break when he threw himself against it during a demonstration for visiting law students — but the moulding around the glass did. [Snopes]
You can read more about about the intriguing ways people find to accidentally off themselves on Wikipedia’s List of Unusual Deaths.
Top picture: Simon Booth/Shutterstock