The Carte figurative des pertes successives en hommes de l'Armée Française dans la campagne de Russie 1812-1813 pictured below is a flow map published in 1869 on the subject of Napoleon's disastrous Russian campaign of 1812. And perhaps one of the coolest infographics I've seen.
Imagine it's the middle of the 19th century and you have
Minard was a pioneer of the use of graphics in engineering and statistics. He is famous for his Carte figurative des pertes successives en hommes de l'Armée Française dans la campagne de Russie 1812-1813, a flow map published in 1869 on the subject of Napoleon's disastrous Russian campaign of 1812.
His graph displays several variables in a single two-dimensional image:
- the army's location and direction, showing where units split off and rejoined
- the declining size of the army (note e.g. the crossing of the Berezina river on the retreat)
- the low winter temperatures during the retreat.
Étienne-Jules Marey first called notice to this dramatic depiction of the terrible fate of Napoleon's army in the Russian campaign, saying it "defies the pen of the historian in its brutal eloquence". Edward Tufte says it "may well be the best statistical graphic ever drawn" and uses it as a prime example in The Visual Display of Quantitative Information.
The beauty of Minard's map lies in its simplicity.
Fast forward almost two centuries: imagine it's the beginning of the 21st century and you've got
Complexity of an idea is inversely proportional to our understanding of it. In the Hirschey Lab, we try to achieve the simplicity and beauty that Minard achieved. Science is complex, but with a complete understanding of science, it can be simple.
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