The deadliest events in history, ranked by deaths per day

Illustration for article titled 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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9/11: 33,036 per day

Seems weird to greatly inflate the number of people who actually died by multiplying it out by 12 as if 2,753 died every two hours.