3: Historical and Contemporary Visualisation Methods – Part 1


Historical things and contemporary developments


  • Used to help enable audience to understand large amounts of data
    • E.g. war and death
  • Can reduce the time it takes to understand the events, especially with complex data
  • Gives audience tools to analyse and compare
  • Shows variables in data

Example 1: Napoleon’s Invasion of Russia Graph

  • Variables: strength of army
  • Brown lines depicts army going to Moscow
  • Darker line shows army returns to west
  • The thickness of the line represents the amount of people alive in the army
  • The second graph underneath shows temperature
Napolean’s Invasion of Russia (M. Minard, 1869)

Example 2: Florence Nightingale’s Graphs

  • Graph exposes the cause of death and death rates amongst the soldiers
  • Wedge layout allows the small data to be viewed in the centre
  • Allows to view the casualty over time, wedge allows for easier view
Diagram of the Causes of Mortality (F. Nightingale, 1858)

Otto Neurath:

  • “Educating through the eye”
  • ISOTYPE: International System of Typographic Picture Education – serialisation of images
  • Using one figure to represent greater quantity
  • Industrial approach – Believed they should bring the museum to the people. Multiple versions created to be shipped and displayed
  • Vertical access of major parties makes it easier to compare
  • Aims to transform society into well informed citizens


This lecture explored examples of past successful graphs; Napoleon’s invasion of Russia and Florence Nightingale’s graph. The graph of Napoleon’s invasion is fairly complex with multiple variables such as; time, location, weather and army size. The way in which this graph has been presented is fairly successful as it depicts a clear story with an accurate representation of the data.

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