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In Praise of William Playfair

July 14, 2013

We live in the time of “big data.”  We struggle to develop unique formats and methods to allow us to digest and utilize the data we capture.  This section of will be devoted to examining interesting and useful methods of displaying quantitative information to enhance understanding of a variety of topics.

This “Infographic” section of pays homage to William Playfair.  Born in 1759, Playfair was a less than successful renaissance man of the Enlightenment. His endeavors ranged from silversmith, apprentice to Watt and Meikle, economist, draftsman, engineer, etc.  He was also a bankrupt, blackmailer, speculator, convict and journalist.

However, Playfair made an enduring contribution to our cognitive ability to understand the world around us.  He “invented” the first line-graph, bar-graph and pie-chart.  Here are examples of his work (click on chart to enlarge).

william_playfair_universal Playfair1 800px-Playfair_TimeSeries-2