World’s Lasts

1World's Last Execution By Guillotine

In 1977, Tunisian immigrant Hamida Djandoubi became the last person to be executed by France's infamous guillotine. Djandoubi had been convicted of torturing and murdering his girlfriend, Elizabeth Bousquet, in Marseille.

After unsuccessfully forcing Bousquet into prostitution she filed a complaint against him, which lead him to seek revenge. Djandoubi lured two other young girls into a prostitution ring and forced them to watch as he kidnapped Bousquet, raped her, and burned her breasts and genitals with cigarettes before finally driving her out of town and strangling her to death.

Djandoubi attempted to kidnap another girl one month later, but she was able to escape and report him to the police. He was executed by guillotine on September 10, 1977. France abolished capital punishment in 1981.

2World's Last Matriarchal Society

High in the mountains of southwest China live the members of the Mosuo Tribe, widely-thought to be the last matriarchal society in the world. With 40,000 residents residing in villages alongside the pristine Lugu Lake, the people of this “Kingdom of Women” have no words in their language for “husband” or “father.” Women make all major decisions, own all land and dwellings, and maintain sole custody of the children born into their society.

Most importantly, the women of the Mosuo tribe practice a zuo hun, or “walking marriage,” which means that after they are initiated at the age of 13 women may take as many lovers as they wish throughout their lifetime. Any resulting children are raised by the women of the tribe and men are all referred to as “Uncles.” Paternity is never discussed or questioned.

3World's Last American WWI Survivor

Of the 4.7 million Americans who served in World War I, only one is still living today. Frank Woodruff Buckles recently celebrated his 110th birthday, making him one of only three surviving WWI veterans in the world, and the only American. Mr. Buckles was just fifteen when he lied about his age in order to enlist in the U.S. Army. He was sent overseas where he worked in the ambulance corps, caring for wounded soldiers on the battle fields. Mr. Buckles went on to serve in World War II where he was imprisoned in a Japanese POW camp for three years before being rescued by American forces.

Not long ago Mr. Buckles lobbied for a new WWI memorial in Washington, D.C., making him the oldest person ever to have testified before the U.S. Senate.

Note: Sadly, a reader has just informed us that Mr. Buckles died yesterday (February 27, 2011) at age 110. Our sympathy goes out to his family.

4World's Last Man To Set Foot On The Moon

In December of 1972 the astronauts aboard NASA's Apollo 17 spacecraft made the sixth and final lunar landing in history thus far. Commander Eugene Cernan and Lunar Module Pilot Harrison Schmitt took a total of three spacewalks over the course of the seventy-five hours that they spent on the surface of the moon. During these walks they collected samples and detonated explosive scientific devices.

Though Schmitt was the last person to step onto the surface of the moon, he re-entered the spacecraft ahead of Cernan, making Cernan the world's last person to ever set foot on the Moon.

5World's Last Geochelone Abigdoni Tortoise

This handsome fellow is known as “Lonesome George,” and he is a 200-pound tortoise whose entire species' survival relies upon him mating with a similar species of giant tortoise. George is between 90 and 100 years old and has an expected lifespan of 150 years. Though he hit a “sexual prime” in his early nineties none of the giant tortoise eggs that he fertilized were viable, so for now he is still the world's last example of his breed.

6World's Last Handwritten Newspaper

Every day in the city of Chennai, India, three calligraphers called katibs painstakingly write out the news of the day in their native language. The Musalman is a four-page evening newspaper that is written entirely by hand before being mass produced by a printing press. The newspaper contains national and local news as well as a sports section. The katibs traditionally leave a small corner of the front page blank in case there is late-breaking news that must be added at the last minute.

The Musalman is the oldest Urdu-language newspaper and is distributed to nearly 22,000 citizens each day. It is largely considered to be the world's only remaining handwritten newspaper of its kind.

7World's Last Language To Go Extinct

When eighty-five year-old Boa Sr. died on January 10, 2010, she took with her the last of her native language of Aka Bo (also called Bo). Boa Sr was an Indian Great Andamanese elder in the Andaman Islands of India; she was also the only person of the roughly 52 remaining natives in her village who remembered any Bo, so when she died the language became the world's most recent language to go extinct.

Extinct languages are different than “Dead” languages because dead languages (like Latin and Sanskrit) are kept alive by scholars who study them. Extinct languages are permanently gone when the last native speaker dies. Though Aka Bo is the most recent language to disappear, it may not remain the world's last forever. It is estimated that half of the nearly six thousand languages spoken in the world will become extinct within the next 200 years.

8World's Last Giant Gold Nugget

This 9-pound chunk of solid gold was found in the Sierra Nevadas by a man using a metal detector on his property. The rocky California mountains inspired the infamous Gold Rush during the 17th Century, yet somehow this massive piece of gold was overlooked by the miners and panhandlers who blanketed the area in hopes of striking it rich.

This nugget is said to be the last of its kind in the world; it will be auctioned off in March 2011, and is expected to fetch nearly half a million dollars.

9World's Last Naturally-Occurring Case of Smallpox

Until the disease was eradicated by a vaccine in 1979, humans had been affected by this life-altering virus for centuries. Of those infected, Smallpox killed up to 60% of adults and nearly 80% of children, leaving survivors disfigured with scarring and often blind.

The world's last victim of the naturally-occurring Smallpox virus was Rahima Banu of Bangladesh, who was two years-old when she contracted the disease in October of 1975. Once the World Health Organization was notified, Banu received the vaccine and was completely cured. She married at age eighteen, had four children, and is still alive today.

Sadly, Janet Parker, a medical photographer at the University of Birmingham Medical School in the UK was not so fortunate. When Janet contracted a lab-generated version of the Smallpox virus in 1978 she became the World's Last person to die from the disease.

10World's Last Seagoing Paddle Steamer

Although ship-building technology has advanced and steam-powered paddle boats are hardly the most efficient way to travel, there are still many functioning paddle steamers around the world operating mainly as tourist attractions. Only one paddle steamer offers a nostalgic glimpse into the past while also venturing to sea, and that is the PS Waverley in Scotland. Built in 1947, the Waverley still offers regular voyages around the coast of England and Scotland.

11World's Last Atomic Bombing

On August 9, 1945, the United States dropped the last atomic bomb to date on Nagasaki in Japan. Three days earlier U.S. forces had bombed Hiroshima, and this final bombing was the event that finally lead Japan to surrender the Pacific War, thereby ending World War II.

Though Germany had surrendered in May of 1945, an act that ended the war in Europe, Japan had refused to surrender. U.S. President Harry S. Truman issued the order to bomb the two Japanese cities. Over the course of the next several months 90,000-160,000 people in Hiroshima and 60,000-80,000 people in Nagasaki died either from the injuries sustained during the bombings, burns, or subsequent radiation sickness.

12World's Last U.S. State To Abolish Slavery

Though the U.S. government abolished slavery in 1865 with the 13th Amendment, the state of Mississippi didn't get around to making slavery illegal until 130 years later, in 1995. When the rest of the nation ratified the 13th Amendment making it illegal to sell, own, or purchase a human slave, the state of Mississippi held off because citizens wanted the government to reimburse them for money lost by freeing their slaves. It wasn't until 1995 when the state officially, if not symbolically, abolished slavery.