Wednesday, May 03, 2006 05/05/06-Grim Mortality

In today's excerpt, the stark facts of mortality, circa 1662. In the then nascent discipline of population statistics, John Gaunt published the first statistics for London in 1662 in his Natural and Political Observations up the Bills of Mortality:

"Gaunt devised a table of the number of survivors from a random group of 100 Londoners at ages from 0 to 76. The 64 (only 64!) six-year-olds playing at pitch-and-toss in the narrow street or dawdling to their lessons became the 40 who married at sixteen in their half-built Wren parish church, the 25 who brought their first-born for christening (if it had not been overlaid), and the 16 who, in the prime of life, ran the shop and business inherited from their parents. By the age of 56, six of them occasionally met at the feasts of their trade or at its elections; three, never the best of friends, remained at 66 to complain about the young, and one at 76 sat by the fire, a pipkin of gruel on his knees, as the lethargy crept upon him."

From Chances Are... Adventures In Probability, by Michael Kaplan and Ellen Kaplan. VIKING, Published by the Penguin Group, 2006.


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