# The Birth of Data

#### Synopsis

This chapter traces the role of data in the initial rise of graphical methods around the early 1800s. We start with the very idea of numbers used for some wider purpose, and considered what we now call “data”. We focus attention on one important participant in this story: André-Michel Guerry [1802–1866], who used an “avalanche of data” and graphical methods to help invent modern social science.

#### Chapter contents

• Early Numerical Recordings
• Flooding of the Nile
• Ephemeris tables
• Political Arithmetic
• The Human Sex Ratio
• An Avalanche of Numbers
• Mapping Social Data
• Graphic details matter
• Stability and Variation
• Seeking Explanations, Causes and Relationships
• Analytical Statistics
• Re-Visions: Consulting for Guerry

## Selected Figures

### Figure 3.1: Alfonsine Tables

A page from the Alfonsine Tables giving times of observations of celestial events.
Source: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts University of Pennsylvania, LJS 174.

### Figure 3.2: Sex ratio

Arbuthnot’s data on the ratio of male to female births. The average ratio, 1.07, is shown by the upper dashed line, compared to the solid line at 1.0. The curved line shows a smoothed (loess) curve through the points, with a shaded confidence interval.
Rcode: 03_2-arbuthnot-gg.R

### Figure 3.3: First comparative shaded maps

Guerry and Balbi’s 1829 Statistique comparée de l’état de l’instruction et du nombre des crimes. Top left: crimes against persons; top right: crimes against property; bottom: instruction. In each map, the departments are shaded so that darker is worse (more crime or less education).
Source: Reproduction courtesy of the Bibliothéque National Français.

### Figure 3.4: Quetelet’s (1836) maps of crime

Crimes against property (left), crimes against persons (right).
Source: Reproduction courtesy of Princeton University Library, Historic Maps Collection.

### Figure 3.5: Suicide method and age

Histograms of the age distributions of suicide by pistol vs. by hanging, for males.
Source: André-Michel Guerry, Essai sur la statistique morale de la France. Paris: Crochard, 1833, Plate VII.

### Figure 3.6: Ranked lists

Ranking of crimes against persons in seven age groups. Connecting lines show some noteworthy trends.
Source: André-Michel Guerry, Essai sur la statistique morale de la France. Paris: Crochard, 1833, Plate IV.

### Figure 3.7: Reproduction of Guerry’s six maps

As in Guerry’s originals, darker shading signifies worse on each moral variable. Numbers give the rank order of departments on each variable. Data source: André-Michel Guerry, Statistique morale de l’Angleterre comparée avec la statistique morale de la France, d’après les comptes de l’administration de la justice criminelle en Angleterre et en France, etc. Paris: J.-B. Baillière et fils, 1864.