History of Data Visualization


Book cover

This is the companion web site associated with our book, A History of Data Visualization and Graphic Communication, Harvard University Press, 2021. Its’ purpose is to provide additional resources for readers of the book, beyond what is contained in the print edition.

  • We provide high-res color images of figures from the book, because the print edition was limited to 20 color plates. These are contained in the Chapter pages available from the main menu. They are presented as thumbnail images, but a click shows them in higher resolution.

  • We collect related articles or topics that could not be included in the print edition, links to associated talks, etc.

  • We provide the R code for our reconstructions of historical graphs, linked in the figure captions on the individual chapter pages. These may be useful to readers who want to use them for their own research or teaching. You can download them all in this fig-code.zip file.

  • There may also be errata, topics for addition to a 2nd edition, and a place for commentaries by readers. See the Discussion for what has accumulated so far.


The book can be ordered from: Harvard University Press, Amazon.com or affiliates, such as Amazon.ca.

Publishing details are contained in this HUP flyer. The Introduction chapter is available here.


The Chapters menu at the top right presents information and images for the chapters. Here is a visual overview.


Introductory chapter

The introductory chapter gives the origin story of this book and provides and overview of the book.

What it is about

With complex information everywhere, graphics have become indispensable to our daily lives. Navigation apps show real-time, interactive traffic data. Charts communicate stock market trends, government spending, and the dangers of epidemics. A History of Data Visualization & Graphic Communication tells the story of how graphics left the exclusive confines of scientific research and became ubiquitous. As data visualization spread, it changed the way we think. This book is an exploration and celebration of the origins and, to some extent, future of graphical methods of data presentation.

It aims to give a comprehensive history of data visualization with an emphasis on the questions:

Two major themes connect the topics and and chronology of this account.


Copyright © 2021 Michael Friendly. All rights reserved.

friendly AT yorku DOT ca

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