Geography 970

February 21, 2010

Victorian Infographics, or Why Alexander von Humboldt Rocked

Filed under: Uncategorized — markharrower @ 9:59 pm

I’ve wondered if each generation has always felt it was the smartest, most clever, most 3-dimensional group of people who’ve ever lived and that those older generations couldn’t possibly have been as clever or smart or emotionally complex as us. Or perhaps that lack awareness and appreciation for other generations is recent, western affliction? More specifically to Geog 970, it always makes me smile when the cool tech/infovis kids discover some folks were doing very similar stuff like 150 years ago without the benefit of computers šŸ™‚

From the Rumsey Map Collection (via Flickr) — I was thinking of Daniel looking at these!

I’ve often heard folks say Alexander von Humboldt was one of the most important scholars of all-time (and was unusually popular during his lifetime…one of the earlier “celebrity scientists”). These hand-drawn graphics certainly don’t disprove that and they also embody our modern visualization goal of “beautiful thinking made clear”



  1. p.s. Digging a bit deeper, there are a bunch more here (be sure to see them in full, high res definition):

    Comment by markharrower — February 21, 2010 @ 10:04 pm

  2. From my point of view this is one of those cases where the visual appeal of the graphic is the first set the hook in the viewer to then explore it more. Translating into current (internet) graphics we often only have a single shot to encourage a user to take a second look at a map or graphic. This seems to me reason enough to spend time on clear and effective but also visually appealing designs.

    Comment by kjmcgrath — March 8, 2010 @ 2:28 pm

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