More appalling infant mortality numbers, then and now

Current infant mortality rates are less than half of one percent, and it is awful for parents who lose a child. But in the 1700s, infant mortality rates were over 50%.

I came across this today in Robert K. Massie’s Catherine the Great: peter_the_great_of_russia_detail_1838Peter the Great (1682-1725) and his wife had twelve children — “six boys and six girls, only two of whom survived past age seven” (p. 29). Both survivors were girls, one of whom became the Empress Elizabeth.

Other prominent examples:

* The historian Edward Gibbon (1737–1794) was the only one of six sons to survive to adulthood.
* Wolfgang Mozart (1756–1791) had six siblings, and five of them died in infancy.
* The composer Franz Schubert (1797-1828) had thirteen brothers and sisters, and nine died in infancy.

The great reduction since then is thanks to modern medicine. Yet modern medicine depends on two things: lots of wealth and lots of free and vigorous scientific inquiry. Wealth in turns depends on economic freedom. Worth keeping in mind when evaluating those forces now at work to limit speech and control business.

Related: The Enlightenment Vision.

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