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If you could erase one discovery or invention for the benefit of humanity, what would it be and why?(r/AskReddit)
Fun fact: Thomas Midgley, one of the guys who invented tetraethyl lead, also invented and promoted freon and other CFCs (the stuff that wrecked the ozone layer). Between his two “contributions” to commercial chemistry, he is probably the most environmentally-destructive individual organism ever to have lived.
It could be argued that if you had a time machine and a single bullet, you might do more for humanity by going back and killing Midgely instead of Hitler. It’s a shame, because he certainly didn’t intend for either of his inventions to do so much damage.
Luckily (in a way), he died before we found out what a disaster TEL and CFCs turned out to be. Not so luckily (but perhaps predictably), he was killed by yet another of his own inventions. Partially paralyzed by polio, he devised a complicated arrangement of ropes and pulleys to give him more mobility. He ended up getting tangled in the contraption and was strangled to death by the ropes.
EDIT: Since half a dozen people have suggested Bill Bryson’s “A Short History of Nearly Everything” and something called “vsauce” as the potential source for this fun fact, I’m just going to mention here that I first learned this bit of trivia on QI. I have also read A Short History, but my first exposure to the inventive tragedy that is Thomas Midgley’s career was courtesy of Stephen Fry. If you find facts like this fun, I strongly encourage you to watch QI (most of it is on youtube). I also encourage you to read Bill Bryson’s book.