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Unexpected Outcomes and Sticky Endings


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Many of the world's great scientists and inventors never achieved the financial rewards or even the public acclaim that they deserved for their achievements.

In the best of cases they may simply have donated the results of their creativity and their efforts to the community. More likely however, they may have lacked business skills, or perhaps a significant contribution they had made to a stage in the evolution of an idea may have been overlooked or discounted in the final outcome. It is also not unusual that credit for their discoveries may have been falsely claimed by others or worse still, they may have suffered a personal tragedy, meeting their demise or dying prematurely due to unusual circumstances. The links below take you to some of their stories.

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Each link on this page takes you to one or two short paragraph summaries of little known interesting personal details of some of these pioneers which don't normally appear in science text books.

For easy reading they have been isolated from the technical explanations of their achievements contained on the History Page.

For more information about the technical details of their work, simply scroll up from the link's target point to see the full story of their contribution or follow the other navigation options on the page.


Ampère André-Marie : Troubled family life of the man after whom the unit of electric current was named.

Archimedes of Syracuse : Legendary engineer and mathematician, killed by a Roman soldier.

Armstrong Edwin : Inventor of the FM radio system commits suicide after being swindled by David Sarnoff, CEO of RCA.

Bacon Francis : Died as a result of exposure to cold and damp conditions while experimenting with meat preservation.

Blumlein Alan Dower : Inventor of the stereo sound and radar systems, killed in plane crash while testing a radar design.

Boole George : Mathematician died of pneumonia after being treated for a cold by his wife who believed that a remedy should resemble the cause.

Brahe Tycho : Thought to have died either from syphilis or to have been poisoned with Mercury by his rival Kepler in order to obtain the data of his planetary obsevations.

Bunsen Robert Wilhelm : Who actually invented the Bunsen burner?

Carothers Wallace : Inventor of nylon and neoprene, considers himself a failure and commits suicide.

Curie Marie :Nobel Prize winner for radiation studies dies from prolonged exposure to radioactive materials.

Davy Humphry : Claimed credit for the isolation of many new elements, which were actually discovered by others, as well as the invention of the miner's safety lamp, named after him, which was in fact designed by George Stephenson.

Diesel Rudolf Karl : The mysterious disappearance of the motor man.

Drake Edwin Laurentine : Pioneer of the U.S. oil industry, died in poverty after bringing untold riches to many people.

Edison Thomas : Ruthless businessman, holder of 1093 patents, credited with the invention of the light bulb which had actually already been patented a year before by Joseph Swan. Also the instigator of the notorious Current Wars which he eventually lost.

Galvani Luigi : The first to identify the force of electricity which he belived to be a God given property of animals.

Gauss Carl Friedrich : A gifted mathematician and physicist with many achievements despite living a lonely and unhappy life.

Gutenberg Johann Genstleisch : Inventor of the printing press which brought information to the masses and enabled the Scientific Revolution. Died penniless.

Haber Fritz : An unfortunate victim of "The Law of Unintended Consequences", invented the process for synthesising ammonia for use in manufacturing fertiliser and also an insecticide for improving crop yields, but both were adapted for use as weapons of war.

Hopkinson John : A very sad family tradgedy.

Hypatia of Alexandria : The world's first woman scientist, killed by a Christian mob.

Jenner Edward : His medical discovery saved millions of lives but his contemporaries were not impressed.

Kildall Gary : Designer of the first successful operating system for early personal computers, let it slip from his hands allowing Bill Gates to modify it for use by IBM on their new PC, making Gates a billionaire in the process.

Korolev Sergei Pavlovich : Russia's leading space scientist meets early death during botched medical procedure.

Lavoisier Antoine Laurent : Introduced rigorous scientific methods to chemistry but was guillotined during the Reign of Terror which followed the French Revolution because of objections to his second job as a tax collector.

Lovelace Ada : The world's first software engineer. Adventurous daughter of "Mad Bad and Dangerous to Know" poet Lord Byron.

Meitner Lise : Pioneering Austrian nuclear physicist whose major achievements were not properly recognised or rewarded at the time because of her Jewish heritage.

Midgley Thomas : Said to be responsible for more deaths than anyone else in history, kills himself accidentally in a medical contraption of his own design.

Ming Dynasty : Marco Polo branded a liar by fellow Europeans when describing Ming's advanced technical achievements.

Planck Max : Developer of quantum theory had perhaps the most tragic life of any scientist.

Potocnik Herman : In 1928 proposed the use of geostationary satellites and calculated their orbits long before the technology was available. He died in poverty one year later at the age if 36.

Ritter Johann Wilhelm : Accidentally killed himself while investigating the effect of progressively higher voltages on his own body.

Rumford Count : American lover of executed Lavoisier's widow, founded the British Royal Institution.

Scheele Carl Wilhelm : Discoverer of several new gases, including Oxygen and Chlorine, was found dead in his laboratory at the age of 43, suspected of having died from tasting the chemicals produced by his experiments.

Singer Isaac Merritt : A very unconventional life style of the maker of the sewing machine.

Tesla Nikola : A prolific designer initially swindled by Edison but later, despite being awarded over 800 patents, died penniless.

Turing Alan Mathison : A good man unnecessarariy shamed into suicide.

Thimonnier Barthelemy : Designer of the first practical sewing machine. Predating Singer's machine.

Whittle Frank : Inventor of the jet engine struggles to convince the government of its importance.

There are many more similar stories on the Electropaedia History Page.






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