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]