Weirdly Interesting 13 Inventors Foiled By Their Own Inventions  

Lon Harris
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Inventors killed, ruined, or devastated by the things, ideas, and concepts they created. If there's one key lesson to take away from this list, it's "don't ever invent a way to punish or kill people, as it will likely be used against you." Seriously, this has happened so many times throughout history, you'd think people would completely abandon the "clever new ways to end someone" industry for fear of their own lives. (Unfortunately, that hasn't happened.) Also, just saying, but James Manos, Jr., creator of "Dexter," may want to keep an eye out for ice cream trucks.

Beyond the creators of angry kill machines, many inventors have also met untimely ends –or just tragic fates – because of the unintended consequences of their discoveries. Consider the unfortunate case of Stan Honey (who was not deemed quite significant enough for the actual list, but is still relevant. Bear with me here.) He created the yellow "first down line" that appears on your screen during NFL games. Brilliant, right? And what was Stan's reward? Poor guy can't even enjoy a game anymore. He's too worried about making sure the yellow line looks right. Poor, poor bastard.

Anyway, pity these poor fools who came up with things that made our lives better, saved us some time or made it easier for us to efficiently murder one another. They would have seen this coming if they'd only invented a time machine instead.

Gary Kremen is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list 13 Inventors Foiled By Their Own Inventions
Photo: via Twitter

WHAT HE INVENTED

Match.com

BACKGROUND

Way back in 1994, entrepreneur Gary Kremen had an idea for a classified ads-style website while taking a shower. He called the company Electric Classifieds Inc., proving that not every "shower idea" is necessarily a winner. Interesting sidenote, around this same time, Kremen also had the foresight to register Sex.com, leading to a remarkable series of lawsuits and manhunts after the domain was stolen by Stephen M. Cohen. (It's amazing anyone was ever able to register sex.com! Tim Berners-Lee must be so pissed he didn't think to keep that one for himself!)

EUREKA!

A year later, Kremen released the much more memorably titled Match.com, essentially inventing the online dating service and revolutionizing the way shy people and perverts connect forever. The concept was to keep releasing more sites all the time with similar naming schemes, covering everything people would post about in classified ads. (Jobs.com, apartments.com, etc.) It was a solid idea, though Craigslist started as an e-mail newsletter in 1995 and ended up stealing a lot of Kremen's thunder.

Kremen left Match.com in 1996 after a dispute with investors and the company was eventually sold to Cendant, then Ticketmaster. (It's now run by IAC.)

SO WHAT HAPPENED?

One of Kremen's chief innovations that made Match.com such a success was a focus on appealing to female users. (Essentially, if women want to come and make profiles, it doesn't really matter what the site looks like... men will follow.) Unfortunately, this resulted in Kremen's own girlfriend leaving him for a man she met on Match.com. (He insists this is how he first knew the site was a success.)

Kremen complained in 1998 to the San Francisco Chronicle that, though Match.com had already helped thousands of singles find love, it had never actually worked for him personally, and he was going to spend Valentine's Day alone. "It's really a bummer," Kremen said. "I've helped a lot of people but it just hasn't helped me."

If creating Match.com and then not finding a match seems unfortunate, remember that Gary also created Jobs.com and Sex.com. Let's hope for his sake there isn't a pattern forming...

Age: 54

Birthplace: United States of America

Profession: Programmer, Businessperson, Entrepreneur

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Perillos of Athens


Perillos of Athens is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list 13 Inventors Foiled By Their Own Inventions
Photo: via Reddit

WHAT HE INVENTED

The Brazen Bull

BACKSTORY

From 570 to 554 BC, the Sicilian city of Agrigentum was ruled over by a general named Phalaris. It's said that he strengthened the city's walls, constructed an aqueduct to provide clean water, and improved trade with Carthage, and was a cannibal whose preferred dish was "suckling babies." So, you know, kind of a mixed bag.

EUREKA!

Seeking a delightfully creative new way to torture and kill people, Phalaris turned to metal-worker Perillos of Athens. (How did he get from Athens to Sicily? That, children, is a story for another list!) Perillos eventually designed for the clearly well-adjusted tyrant a bull made of either iron or bronze, depending on which somewhat-reputable website you read. (Uh, I mean, ancient primary text you personally inspect!)

It worked like this: Undesireables are placed inside the belly of the iron/bronze bull and then a fire is lit underneath the statue. This eventually roasts the victim, producing a satisfying plume of smoke out of the bull's nose, which may or may not have been mingled with incense to really make the searing flesh smell POP, you know? Also, it's said that the screams of the piping hot unfortunates inside resembled the bellowing of a bull. (Have you ever heard a bull bellow? Tell us your story in the comments!)

SO WHAT HAPPENED?

Inventing a fun and daring new torture device for a cruel cannibalistic dictator? How could THIS possibly backfire? Again, various Internet sources that Google swears are accurate and reliable differ on the details of what happened to Perillos. One story that can't possibly be true says that the inventor happily leapt into the belly of his creation to demonstrate how accurate the bellowing would sound when Phalaris just locked him in there and lit him up. That's just comical, over-the-top villainry. But it seems clear enough that, through some circumstance or another, Perillos did end up being the first victim of his new device.

The story has YET ANOTHER deliciously ironic twist. The final victim of the so-called Brazen Bull was apparently ol' Phalaris himself. After ruling Agrigentum for 16 human flesh-and-incense-scented years, Phalaris was overthrown in an uprising led by the general Telemachus and thrown inside his own Easy Bake Oven. Then, everyone in Sicily gave up on inventing nasty things to just focus full-time on square pizzas.

William Bullock is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list 13 Inventors Foiled By Their Own Inventions
Photo: via Twitter

WHAT HE INVENTED

The Web Rotary Printing Press

BACKSTORY

After being orphaned at an early age, William Bullock worked as a machinist with his older brother. (Not the creepy, ultra-thin Christian Bale kind of machinist. The normal early nineteenth century kind.) An obsessive tinkerer, he invented a lot of things with old-timey names that we still have use for today if we happen to live in Nebraska. Inventions like a grain drill for planting seeds at pre-set depths, or a lathe cutting machine used for... cutting... lathes?

Also, Bullock married a woman named Angeline Kimball and had seven kids with her before she died suddenly in 1850. He then married HER SISTER, Emily Kimball, and had six more children. That has nothing to do with his inventions or being foiled by them, but how do you write a bit about William Bullock and not mention his personal exploits! Why do we have shows about The Borgias and The Tudors and not The Bullocks, Showtime? What's your problem?

EUREKA!

Bullock may have been working on the words in the paper, but it was the process of printing it that really interested him. The rotary printing press (which passes papers between two large cylinders) had been invented by Richard Hoe in 1844, and was the standard way newspapers were printed, but it was a tedious process because each paper had to be hand-fed into the machine. In 1865, Bullock presented his improvement on the concept, known as the Web Rotary Press or Bullock Press. It used one continuous roll of paper that automatically fed into the machine, making the whole thing much faster and more efficient.


To defeat these guys in "BioShock Infinite," just stand on the platform above them and use the Volley Gun.

If you just read that entire paragraph, congratulations. You have probably doubled your lifetime total for "time spent thinking about the history of newspaper printing presses." Uh, you're welcome.

SO WHAT HAPPENED?

On April 3, 1867, Bullock was helping to install one of his own presses at the Philadelphia Public Ledger. His leg, unfortunately, got caught in the machine and was completely crushed. Though Bullock was able to get out of the machine, the leg developed gangrene and required amputation. Bullock died during the surgical procedure. But his legacy lives on! Some newspapers still use the old Web Rotary system (famously depicted whenever you see those "newspapers flying at the screen telling you about breaking news" montages in movies or TV shows.) And the next time you're drilling some grain, now you know who to thank...

Age: Died at 54 (1813-1867)

Birthplace: Greenville, New York, United States of America

Profession: Inventor

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Fred Duesenberg


Fred Duesenberg is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list 13 Inventors Foiled By Their Own Inventions
Photo: via Reddit

WHAT HE INVENTED

The Duesenberg car

BACKSTORY

Duesenberg, a German immigrant who came to the U.S. when he was eight, built his first motorcycles in 1900 with his brother, August. With help from a lawyer friend and Fred Maytag, the man behind Maytag washing machines, August and Fred started their first car company. Unfortunately, it was a flop, but their experience working on engines to ship to France during WWI served as the background needed to design the Duesenberg Model A.

EUREKA!

Fred Duesenberg became a legendary and influential figure in the history of racing cars. His Duesenberg was the first-ever American car to win the Grand Prix in Le Mans, France, in 1921. He defeated the second-place finisher by an astounding 14 minutes. (14 minutes! He could have watched an entire Adventure Time before the next car passed the finished line, if only animation or TV had been invented!) Duesenberg is also credited with popularizing the eight-cylinder engine and the four wheel hydraulic brake in America, and his cars became highly sought-after by celebrities and the elite. They're collector's items today. Unsurprisingly, Jay Leno has a bunch of them!

Unfortunately for Fred and August, the Duesenberg Model A didn't sell, and the brothers wound up focusing more on designing racing cars than passenger vehicles.

SO WHAT HAPPENED?

In July of 1932, Fred was driving his Duesenberg near Jennerstown, Pa., on a slick stretch of road and wound up overturning the car at high speed. He had a spinal injury, which was recoverable, but the accident led to a case of pleuropneumonia that he couldn't shake.

Age: Died at 56 (1876-1932)

Birthplace: Lippe, Germany