Brewer's: Inventors Punished

by their own inventions.

BASTILLE. Hugues Aubriot, Provost of Paris, who built the Bastile, was the first person confined therein. The charge against him was heresy.

BRAZEN BULL. Perillos, who invented the Brazen Bull for Phalaris, Tyrant of Agrigentum, was the first person baked to death in the horrible monster.

CAPTAIN. Cowper Coles, inventor of the turret-ship, perished in the Captain off Finisterre September 7th, 1870.

CATHERINE WHEEL. The inventor of St. Catherine's Wheel, a diabolical machine consisting of four wheels turning different ways, and each wheel armed with saws, knives, and teeth, was killed by his own machine; for when St. Catherine was bound on the wheel, she fell off, and the machine flew to pieces. One of the pieces struck the inventor, and other pieces struck several of the men employed to work it, all of whom were killed.


GUILLOTINE. J. B. V. Guillotin, M.D., of Lyons, was guillotined, but it is an error to credit him with the invention of the instrument. The inventor was Dr. Joseph Agnace Guillotin.

HAMAN, son of Hammedatha, the Amalekite, of the race of Agag, devised a gallows fifty cubits high on which to hang Mordecai, by way of commencing the extripation of the Jews; but the favourite of Ahasuerus was himself hanged on his gigantic gallows. In modern history we have a repetition of this incident in the case of Enguerrand de Marigni, Minister of Finance to Philippe the Fair, who was hung on the gibbet which he had caused to be erected at Montfaucon for the execution of certain felons; and four of his successors in office underwent the same fate.

HOPKINS (Matthew,) the witch-finder, was himself tried by his own tests, and put to death as a wizard.

IRON CAGE. The Bishop of Verdun, who invented the Iron Cages, too small to allow the person confined in them to stand upright or lie at full length, was the first to be shut up in one; and Cardinal La Balue, who recommended them to Louis XI., was himself confined in one for ten years.

IRON SHROUD. Ludovico Sforza, who invented the Iron Shroud, was the first to suffer death by this horrible torture.

MAIDEN. The Regent Mortou of Scotland, who invented the Maiden, a sort of guillotine, was the first to be beheaded thereby. This was in the reign of Queen Elizabeth.

OSTRACISM. Clisthenes introduced the custom of Ostracism, and was the first to be banished thereby.

The PERRIERE was an instrument for throwing stones of 3,000 lbs. in weight; and the inventor fell a victim to his own invention by the accidental discharge of a perrière against a wall.

PORTA A FAENZA. Filippo Strozzi counselled the Duke Alessandro de' Medici to construct the Porta a Faenza to intimidate the Florentines, and here he was himself murdered.

SALISBURY (the Earl of) was the first to use cannon, and was the first Englishman killed by a cannon ball.

UTROP'IUS induced the Emperor Arcadius to abolish the benefit of sanctuary; but a few days afterwards he committed some offence and fled for safety to the nearest church. St. Chrysostom told him he had fallen into his own not, and he was put to death. (Life of St. Chrysostom.)

WINSTANLEY (Mr.) erected the first Eddystone lighthouse. It was a wooden polygon, 100 feet high, on a stone base. but it was washed away by a storm in 1703, and the architect himself perished in his own edifice.

Inventors Punished

A curious instance of the sin of invention is mentioned in the Bridge of Allan Reporter, February, 1803:

“It is told of Mr. Ferguson's grandfather, that he invented a pair of fanners for cleaning grain, and for this proof of superior ingenuity he was summoned before the Kirk Session, and reproved for trying to place the handiwork of man above the time-honoured practice of cleaning the grain on windy days, when the current was blowing briskly through the open doors of the barn.”

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894

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