Historical Infographics

I have spent a pleasant half hour this morning, talking to my youngest daughter about infographics. It all stemmed from the statement “Our topic is Victorians, we are doing Victorians in everything but Maths!”

Hmmm, how would I put the Victorians into maths?

Of course for me the answer is easy…

“Did you know the Victorians were the first to properly use infographics?”

Yes, people have been using images as communication since man painted on cave walls but the Victorians started creating and using complex data visualisations to understand things and make decisions.

Of course M is not happy with just this statement, her amazing, enquiring mind has all sorts of questions, ones which I have the answers to for once. She wants to know the who, what, when and why, and can I please tell her by 7.50 when she leaves for school.

So I start with one of my favourites, Dr John Snow’s map of cholera deaths and public wells in Soho, London in 1854.

The presentation of the data in a map assisted in the identification of the well in Broad Street, which was the cause of a cholera outbreak.

I love how, as part of a large research piece, the map was instrumental in allowing us to see the data and ultimately take action to stop the spread of disease.

I love a good map.

I then tapped into her current knowledge of the era…

“Florence Nightingale used infographics to influence Queen Victoria and her government to make improvements in the health of the British army. She invented the polar chart as we know it, she called it a coxcomb diagram.”

The Victorian age with its collection of information, pursuit of knowledge and the passion for education fit perfectly with infographics. Their world was changing so fast, they had so much new information, of course they would use images as a way of presenting it to a wider audience…

…just like we do now. Big data anyone?

Anyway, M shot off to school, happy she now had new information on her topic to bring to the class. Not sure how happy the teachers will be, considering they have more than enough to do, preparing our precious and precocious small people for the big wide world and of course the dreaded SATS, but I am pleased that M can now associate something that happened then with what I do on a daily basis.


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