40 Faces of Death: A Grim Reaper Gallery

The Triumph of Death
© Alfredo Dagli Orti/The Art Archive/Corbis

Here we see a detail from the 1562 oil painting "The Triumph of Death" by Pieter Brueghel the Elder. The work, while outstanding, is but one entry in a long tradition of dance macabre. Not only is death personified, but the dead rise up to harvest the living -- as if to illustrate the enormous population of the dead that came before us -- a population we are all destined to join. The work reminds us that all Earthly endeavors are futile and that mortality cuts every level of society.

About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.