Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Histories Biggest Killer

If the quiz question 'Who has killed the most people in history' came up you could be excused for running through the usual suspects such as Hitler or Stalin but there is one man who is responsible for multiple more deaths than all of them put together and whose influence continues to kill millions today and will for the foreseeable future.
That man would be Thomas Midgley Jnr, who was not content with shortening the life of us all once, doubled his efforts by thinking up a second way to do it.  
Thomas Midgley Jnr was the man at General Motors who decided that what petrol needed was a large dose of atmosphere polluting lead (tetraethyllead or TEL) in it and then came up with the whizz that refrigerators would work better if they contained ozone depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).
Not the brightest spark, he suffered lead poisoning on several occasions and after numerous deaths at the factory that produced TEL, he poured the TEL over his hands and inhaled the substance for 60 seconds at a press conference to demonstrate the apparent safety of TEL before suffering yet another bout of lead poisoning and having to travel to Europe for treatment.
He was then on the team that developed CFC's for air conditioning and refrigeration systems before dying aged 55 by accidentally strangling himself in the ropes of a pulley that he had invented to lift himself out of bed.
After 70 years of every car in the world using lead petrol which threw thousands of millions tonnes of lead into the atmosphere and then depleting the ozone layer with CFC's, the argument could be made that Thomas Midgely, through environmental changing actions, has been responsible for more human deaths than any other single person in history.

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