The world's greatest accidental murderer

Originally published at: The world's greatest accidental murderer | Boing Boing


The YouTube channel Veritasium talks about Clair Patterson and how his discoveries unintentionally led to several deaths and environmental disasters.

Dead wrong.
Patterson helped reveal the extent and danger of lead pollution.

It was Thomas Midgley jr.


Contrary to the article text, the mass-murderer in question is Thomas Midgley, Jr. Clair Patterson was the scientist who discovered the effects of the latter’s dumbassery.


Yeah. It’s almost like watching a 25 minute video was too much bother. Just write it up and accuse a veritable hero of mass murder. :woman_facepalming:t2:

There was another post about Midgley here a while back, though. That guy really stained his soul, intentionally or not. What a tragic tale.


When I look at an infant and then a pair of forceps, I’m not seeing that the two should ever be near one another.


You are forgetting that:

Mistakes are essential for growth.



Yeah, he did more to call attention to this issue than anyone else and risked his career to try to get it outlawed. The “Cosmos” show did a whole episode about him. Here’s a clip:


And Midgley even managed to use one of his inventions to kill himself- he contracted polio and set up a rope-and-pulley system around his bed… which ended up strangling him.


Needs more @dnealy to correct this egregious error in the blog post:

The YouTube channel Veritasium talks about Clair Patterson and how his discoveries unintentionally led to several deaths and environmental disasters.


Sent an email to the editor.

My bad. When I was putting the final draft into WordPress I messed up. I import my drafts into WordPress, which means I sometimes combine two versions.

Again, my bad.


The narrative flow of the video was my only gripe about this otherwise fabulous video.

At the outset, it says it’s going to tell us about the scientist/inventor whose three inventions killed more people than anyone else. Then it introduces Clair Patterson. It sets the expectation that Patterson is the rogue inventor. And it talks about his work on the atomic bomb, which made me wonder if that was the first of the three inventions. It all gets straightened out by the end, but the first half meanders without obvious direction. Just a tiny bit of framing and some better segues could have helped a lot.


I watched the Veritasium video yesterday and it blew my mind! I’m still a bit shook by it today.


But you can’t get in the way of capitalism.

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While he had nothing to do with forceps, Clair Patterson was absolutely responsible for murdering billions of lead-based mutants, aka Pbeople, by preventing their inevitable existence via his discovery of lead pollution.


To be fair, an infant isn’t what they’re looking at at that time, you know?
Still, bad idea. Poor kids. And moms. :grimacing:


During the course of his research Patterson also became the first person to correctly determine the age of the Earth.

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From what I have read about Midgely, he knew damn well that putting lead in gasoline was gonna make a giant mess.

In 1923, Midgley took a long vacation in Miami, Florida to cure himself of lead poisoning. He found “that my lungs have been affected and that it is necessary to drop all work and get a large supply of fresh air”.

Midgley experienced lead poisoning himself, and was warned as early as 1922, 1923, and 1924 by Erich Krause, George Calingaert, M. G. Whitman, Hugh Cumming about the effects tetraethyl lead would have.

Ethyl Corporation built a new chemical plant using a high-temperature ethyl chloride process at the Bayway Refinery in New Jersey.[11] However, within the first two months of its operation, the new plant was plagued by more cases of lead poisoning, hallucinations, insanity, and five deaths.

– all quotes from his Wikipedia article

He also had a major hand in inventing chlorofluorocarbons; nobody seems to have had any idea what kind of mess they would make at the time, so I guess he gets a bit of “accidental” credit for that, but he seems to have known damn well that lead would fuck things up a lot and yet he still pushed the stuff.,


I first heard of Midgley on an episode of Citation Needed, from the Technical Difficulties.


I was one of those “born between 1951 and 1980,” and like to use it as an excuse any time I do or say something stoopid. “I done lost sum dem IQ pernts.”

The first Freakonomics book had a chapter on lead and crime, and it “led” me to Midgely. My gawd, I grew up in one of the smoggiest towns in Los Angeles, when the gas was leaded AF. No wonder I’m a moron!

The quote from Ben Franklin misspells “receive”, and I suspect the person who typed it out was born between 1951 and 1980.

“Midgley!!!” (shakes fist and looks up at the clouds)