Today, we embark on a journey into the life of an engineer whose name evokes notoriety as the “destroyer of the world” and a “one-man environmental disaster.” This is the story of Thomas Midgley Jr., a celebrated mechanical engineer and chemist of the 1920s, who, despite his significant contributions, would be forever associated with an environmental catastrophe. Thomas Midgley Jr. was a brilliant mind whose work left an indelible mark on the world. However, it’s the nature of this mark that makes his story particularly poignant. At the heart of his legacy is the creation of one of the most extreme pollutants in modern history – leaded gasoline. It was introduced as an anti-knock agent to enhance engine performance, promising a revolution in the automotive industry. Little did anyone know the devastating consequences it would unleash.

The Silent Threat Unleashed

Leaded gasoline became popular fast, but its dangers weren’t clear right away. As time went on, it became clear that it was harmful. The fumes it gave off polluted the air, making people sick, especially those who worked with it.

A Desperate Attempt to Prove Safety

To show his creation was safe, Midgley did something strange. He put his hands in the gasoline and even breathed in its fumes for a whole minute. This experiment hurt his health, but it didn’t stop people from using leaded gasoline. Even though there was proof it was dangerous, governments took a long time to ban it, showing how slow we can be to respond to environmental dangers.

A Tragic End

Thomas Midgley’s story takes a sad turn as he ended his life using one of his own inventions. His life, once full of innovation, was overshadowed by the harm his creations caused.

The tale of Thomas Midgley warns us about the hidden dangers of progress. It reminds us that decisions made for progress can have long-lasting effects. As we think about this part of history, let’s remember the balance between progress and its darker side.

Next: Crazy experiment by the government to control Public Mind


  • Midgley Jr, Thomas, and Albert L. Henne. “Organic fluorides as refrigerants1.” Industrial & Engineering Chemistry 22, no. 5 (1930): 542-545. [Paper]

By The Research Mind

We, researchers from the University of Oxford and University of Cambridge, are dedicated to sharing the latest updates, breakthroughs, and even the occasional blunders in Science & Technology. Stay tuned for some truly mind-blowing science experiments!

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