BusiTelCe » Data Visualization » Data Visualizations from the Past

Data Visualizations from the Past

Historically, many different types of visualizations are used to depict the data. Some of them still exists. Here are few such historical data visualizations from the past.

London Cholera Map

London Cholera Map
London Cholera Map

John Snow is considered one of the fathers of modern epidemiology, in part because of his work in tracing the source of a cholera outbreak in Soho, London, in 1854.

The Broad Street cholera outbreak was a severe outbreak of cholera that occurred near Broad Street in the Soho district of London, England in 1854. This discovery came to influence public health and the construction of improved sanitation facilities beginning in the 19th century.

He plotted every death on a map with ingenious mapped bar charts and was able to show that the closer to the Broad Street water pump he plotted, the greater the number of deaths. The information helped convince the public a true sewage system was needed and spurred the city to action.


Napoleon’s March to Moscow

Napoleon's March to Moscow
Napoleon’s March to Moscow

Charles Minard was a pioneer of the use of graphics in engineering and statistics.

Minard is most well known for his cartographic depiction of numerical data on a map of Napoleon’s disastrous losses suffered during the Russian campaign of 1812. The illustration depicts Napoleon’s army departing the Polish-Russian border. A thick band illustrates the size of his army at specific geographic points during their advance and retreat. It displays six types of data in two dimensions: the number of Napoleon’s troops; the distance traveled; temperature; latitude and longitude; direction of travel; and location relative to specific dates.

Minard Diagram - Temperature Line
Minard Diagram – Temperature Line

In the year 1812, Napoleon marched to Moscow in order to conquer the city. 98% of his soldiers died. Fifty years later, while his country yearned for their former Imperial glory, the Parisian engineer Charles Minard chose to remind his country of the horrors of war with data. The simple but fascinating temperature line below the viz shows how cold ultimately defeated Napoleon’s army.

Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Joseph_Minard

War Mortality Diagram

Florence Nightingale is described as “a true pioneer in the graphical representation of statistics”.

War Mortality Diagram
War Mortality Diagram

She is credited with developing a form of the pie chart now known as the polar area diagram, or occasionally the Nightingale rose diagram, equivalent to a modern circular histogram, to illustrate seasonal sources of patient mortality in the military field hospital she managed.

In the year 1855, during the Crimean War, Nightingale was in the war scene serving as a manager of nurses. She made use of the diagram to tell her story with data by showing the staggering amount of deaths due to preventable disease (shown in blue/grey). After this
visualization , sanitation became a major priority for the British Army.

Sources: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florence_Nightingale

A Chart of Biography

Chart of biography
Chart of biography

Published in 1765 by British polymath Joseph Priestley, A Chart of Biography was very popular and has influenced generations.

Purpose of the chart was to “trace out distinctly the dependence of events to distribute them into such periods and divisions as shall lay the whole claim of past transactions in a just and orderly manner”.

Priestley wanted to teach his students the relationship between the nations of the past and the people that defined them. His creation ended up becoming two separate but related views. Images shown is a small snippet from the first which shows over 2000 historical figures.

New chart of history
New chart of history

Together, they weave an intricate story. They explain and document both the rise and fall of empires, and the unique thinkers that defined those nations. For example, we can see the clusters of biographies and how they correlate to the major moments in human history –the Greeks, the Romans, the Enlightenment, etc.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *