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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

9 Glorious Infographics Through History

From the British Library’s new exhibition, Beautiful Science .


John Graunt's "Bills of Mortality", 1662.


John Graunt's "Bills of Mortality", 1662.


From 1603, London parish clerks began to collect health-related population data in order to monitor plague deaths, publishing the London Bills of Mortality on a weekly basis. John Graunt amalgamated 50 years of information from the bills in Natural and Political Observations on the Bills of Mortality (1662), producing the first known tables of public health data.


British Library / Via pressandpolicy.bl.uk


Eberhard Werner Happel's "Early Ocean Currents", 1685.


Eberhard Werner Happel's "Early Ocean Currents", 1685.


This unusual map of 1685 illustrates ocean currents as understood at the time based on the observations of explorers and mariners. Though necessarily conjectural in many ways, it highlights the remarkable effort made by early cartographers to make sense of an accumulation of data from such reports without the visualisation tools we have today.


British Library / Via pressandpolicy.bl.uk


Florence Nightingale's "Rose Diagram", 1854.


Florence Nightingale's "Rose Diagram", 1854.


This the data from Florence Nightingale’s "rose diagram". It shows not only the lasting relevance of Nightingale’s diagram as a visual icon, but also demonstrates how data can be pictured in different ways. It's a form of the pie chart now known as the polar area diagram, and was meant to illustrate seasonal sources of patient mortality in the military field hospital she managed.


British Library / Via pressandpolicy.bl.uk


John Snow's "On the Mode of Communication of Cholera", 1855


John Snow's "On the Mode of Communication of Cholera", 1855


Snow was a sceptic of the then-dominant miasma theory that stated that diseases such as cholera and bubonic plague were caused by pollution or a noxious form of "bad air". The germ theory of disease had not yet been developed, so Snow did not understand the mechanism by which the disease was transmitted. This map didn't conclusively prove a pump was responsible, but he did convince the council to disable it.


British Library / Via pressandpolicy.bl.uk




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