In this lecture we discover historical developments in the field of data visualisation.

Napoleon’s Invasion of Russia 1812

Napoleon’s Russian Invasion in 1812 Napoleon’s grand army of over 400,000 men journey to Moscow to a town that had already been abandoned. They would have to journey back and they found it difficult to supply the army on the journey back due the harsh weather. The lacking in supplies ultimately took its toll on the men and their horses which carried the supplies leaving the army to trek on foot.

Charles Joseph Minard published an info-graph on this campaign. The left is the polish border on the right is Moscow. The thickness of the line indicates the strength of the army starting at 422,000 men finishing in Moscow with 100,000 men. The darker line indicates the army going back finishing with 10,000 men. Along the bottom we can see the difference.


Napoleon’s 1812 Russian campaign army (Minard, 1869)

Florence Nightingale Crimean War 1958

Soldiers were dying from malnutrition, poor sanitation and lack of activity Nightingale strived to improve the living conditions of the troops keeping records of every patient turning those records into graphs to create an argument to the British commanders.


Coxcomb diagram on mortality in the army (Nightingale, 1858)

Otto Neurath

The starting point for Neurath’s graphical development was in Museum of Economy and Society. The mission was to create social and economic relationships understandable for the uneducated the means of the exhibition was though the means of visualisation education through the eye

He developed a system called the Isotype – International System of Typographic Picture Education One of the innovations he made was the serialisation of images popularising the use of multiples of the same size


The World’s Motor Car Industry in 1929 (Neurath, 2011)

Here each car represents a production of 100,000 cars

Why we visualise?

Not just pretty pictures but to gain insight and understand complex issues

Looking at the worlds population growth we look to find out the trends in Rich countries in comparison of developing countries.

This graph shows all the countries in the world but is visually hard to distinguish.


If we take that same graph and add visual hierarchy taking into account a few countries from rich and developing countries we can see visually see a more clearer answer.


The amount of Information being presented now if far greater than in comparison to those earlier years. Information you show can be as important as what you hide. A goal of any graphic is to be for your eyes and brain to perceive what lies beyond their natural reach

If you don’t present your data to be able to read it explore it and analyse it you need to convince them or give you need the information to convince them.

What I found to be important note in this lecture was how we can visualise data to help educate viewers based on the story we want to show and tell. It it not just about telling your story but also providing audiences with a tool to create their own understanding grasping the idea and ultimately make the analysis themselves as well.



Minard, C. (1869). Napoleon’s 1812 Russian campaign army. Retrieved from

Neurath, O. (2011). The World’s Motor Car Industry in 1929. Retrieved from

Nightingale, F. (1858). Coxcomb diagram on mortality in the army. Retrieved from


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