Sitting through Neil Cameron’s presentation on The Law of Unintended Consequences at last week’s LawTech Futures event in London plus a coincidental conversation with a couple of delegates afterwards has prompted Team Insider to revive one of our regular features from a few years back. Yes, The Midgely Corner is returning is returning to the Legal IT Insider website.
Who Midgley you ask? He is the now largely forgotten American scientist and inventor Thomas Midgley Jr (1889-1944) who is credited with having single-handedly caused more harm to the Earth’s atmosphere than anyone else in mankind’s history. Which considering he is up against everyone from Attila the Hun through to the inventors of the Atom Bomb, that is going some.
His first claim to fame was the discovery that the addition of tetra-ethyl lead to gasoline prevented internal combustion engines from knocking – yes, he was the man who caused lead to be added to petrol. Not content with this, ten years later in 1930 he discovered a safe refrigerant for household appliances, such as fridges and freezers. Midgley called this new substance Freon – technically this was a chlorinated fluorocarbon or CFC. Fast-forward 70 years and we can now see Midgley as the grandfather of polluted urban streets and global warming.
Sadly for Midgley (although happily for us, as it prevented him from going on to devise a third horseman of the ecological apocalypse) in 1940, at the age of 51, he contracted polio and was left severely disabled. Ever ingenious, Midgley devised a system of pulleys and ropes to allow him to climb in and out of an adjustable bed. Unfortunately, this all went tragically wrong on the 2nd November 1944, when he became entangled in the bed’s ropes and died of strangulation.
The Midgely Corner – or tales of Man’s Stupidity with Technology – will be returning soon.