The most horrible days in history were provoked by humans

The most horrible days in history were provoked by humans

The Black Plague killed about 30 million people in five years, 16,427 per day. The Global Flu Pandemic killed 82,137 per day. But that's nothing compared to the damage humans inflicted upon other humans: 70,000 people were killed in five seconds on August 6, 1945, in Hiroshima, Japan. Here's the horrible ranking of deaths per day.

As you will notice, despite Mother Nature's best efforts, humanity dominates the ranking. Well done, us.

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The deadliest events in history, ranked by deaths per day

The deadliest events in history, ranked by deaths per day

Via the Fall 2013 issue of Lapham's Quarterly (the theme of which is "Death") comes a morbidly fascinating way of measuring the loss of life.

What happens if we re-order these according to number of deaths per fixed unit time? For the purposes of our reorganization, we've gone with a temporal unit of one day; it's suitably intermediate in magnitude, and Auschwitz is already listed in terms of a daily average. Here's what we get:


Death, by the Days

Male Deaths During Great Plague of Athens, 430–426 BC: 8 per day
London Cholera-Contamination, 1854: 50 per day
Mexico City smallpox epidemic 1779–1780: 99 per day
Bataan Death March, Philippines, 1942: 572 per day
San Francisco Earthquake & Fires, 1906: 1,000 per day
Boston Molasses Disaster, 1919: 3,024 per day
Global AIDS-related mortality, 2011: 4,654 per day
Union+Confederate Soldiers at Battle of Antietam, 1862: 7,200 per day
Rwandan Genocide, 1994: 8,761 per day
Auschwitz, May–July 1944: 10,000 per day
Mount Vesuvius, 79: 16,000 per day
Europe's Black Death, 1347–51: 16,427 per day
China's "Great Leap Forward" Famine, 1959–1962: 20,534 per day
9/11: 33,036 per day
Sudanese at battle of Omdurman, Sudan, 1898: 48,000 per day
Sinking of the General Slocum, NYC, 1904: 73,512 per day
Global Flu Pandemic, 1918–1919: 82,137 per day
British Army at Battle of the Somme, France, 1916: 288,000 per day
Indian Ocean Earthquake & Tsunami, 2004: 788,571 per day
Hiroshima, atomic bomb, 1945: 1,209,599,381 per day

Sobering, to say the least.

[Lapham's Quarterly via Jennifer Oulette via Adam Frank]

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