Death by robot

January 25, 1979: the day that the robot uprising began. Well, not precisely, but that day saw the first human fatality caused by a robot. It would not be the last.

Jiuguang Wang from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Robert Williams was the first person in history to be killed by a robot. Williams worked at a Ford factory, and in 1979 he was working with a parts retrieval robot. Essentially, it retrieved items from high shelves with a robot arm. On the day in question, Williams had climbed onto a shelf himself without switching off the robot – which then crushed him.

Two years later, a Japanese worker named Kenji Urada was also killed by a manufacturing robot. There have been a small but steady stream of industrial robot fatalities since then, and quite a few deaths by military robot (both accidental and intentional).



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