1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. John Snow’s “On the Mode of Communication of Cholera”, 1855
According to Wikipedia:
“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.
5. Robert Fitzroy’s “Air Currents over the British Isles”, 1863.
Robert FitzRoy, best known as the captain of HMS Beagle aboard which Charles Darwin sailed as a naturalist, is also widely considered to be the grandfather of the modern weather service. This illustration shows how storms and cyclones develop on the border between warm tropical and cold polar air masses and looks remarkably like a modern satellite image.
8. “One Zoom Tree”, James Rosindell, 2012.
This interactive allows viewers to explore the evolutionary relationships between tens of thousands of mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians (tetrapods). It uses a branch of mathematics known as fractal geometry to create an attractive visualisation that can be explored by zooming in, to get ever more detail. The data includes audio from the British Library’s wildlife sound collections.
This post has been corrected to reflect that fact that some of the information came from Wikipedia.