Visible Numbers: Essays on the History of Statistical Graphics, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Visible Numbers

Essays on the History of Statistical Graphics, 1st Edition

Edited by Miles A. Kimball, Charles Kostelnick


330 pages

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Paperback: 9780815386506
pub: 2017-12-22
Hardback: 9781409448754
pub: 2015-12-15
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pub: 2017-07-05
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Bringing together scholars from around the world, this collection examines many of the historical developments in making data visible through charts, graphs, thematic maps, and now interactive displays. Today, we are used to seeing data portrayed in a dizzying array of graphic forms. Virtually any quantified knowledge, from social and physical science to engineering and medicine, as well as business, government, or personal activity, has been visualized. Yet the methods of making data visible are relatively new innovations, most stemming from eighteenth- and nineteenth-century innovations that arose as a logical response to a growing desire to quantify everything-from science, economics, and industry to population, health, and crime. Innovators such as Playfair, Alexander von Humboldt, Heinrich Berghaus, John Snow, Florence Nightingale, Francis Galton, and Charles Minard began to develop graphical methods to make data and their relations more visible. In the twentieth century, data design became both increasingly specialized within new and existing disciplines-science, engineering, social science, and medicine-and at the same time became further democratized, with new forms that make statistical, business, and government data more accessible to the public. At the close of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first, an explosion in interactive digital data design has exponentially increased our access to data. The contributors analyze this fascinating history through a variety of critical approaches, including visual rhetoric, visual culture, genre theory, and fully contextualized historical scholarship.


"The present volume is a collection of ten essays on the subject, mainly written by humanities (especially English) professors. Given this fact, the focus is, as one might expect, on rhetoric and epistemology. (…) those individuals finding the perspective on the subject more in line with their own will be pleased by the 25-page annotated bibliography that is supplied, in addition to the 24 pages of cited works. Summing Up: Recommended."

- C. Bauer, York College of Pennsylvania in CHOICE

Table of Contents

Introduction (Charles Kostelnick and Miles A. Kimball)

Part 1 Visualizing Bodies: Health, Disease, Evolution

The shape of things to come: geometric morphometrics, growth, and evolution (Alan Gross)

Florence Nightingale's statistical tables for medical care (Lee Brasseur)

Visualizing public health: smallpox epidemics, communicating risk, and changing representations of disease rates (Candice A. Welhausen and Rebecca E. Burnett)

Part 2 Visualizing Nations: Moral Statistics, War, Nationalism

Moral statistics and the thematic maps of Joseph Fletcher (Robert Cook and Howard Wainer)

Innovation and inertia in statistical mapping in 19th- and 20th-century America (Mark Monmonier)

Mountains of wealth, rivers of commerce: Michael G. Mulhall's graphics and the imperial gaze (Miles A. Kimball)

'A scheme of cross-roads, orderly and mad': British trench maps of World War I (Marguerite Helmers)

Part 3 Examining Visible Numbers: Forms, Methods, Historiographies

Mosaics, culture, and rhetorical resiliency: the convoluted genealogy of a data display genre (Charles Kostelnick)

The 20th century computer graphics revolution in statistics (Dianne Cook)

The milestones project: a database for the history of data visualization (Michael Friendly, Matthew Sigal, and Derek Harnanansingh)

Annotated bibliography of scholarship on the history of data graphics (Kevin Van Winkle)

About the Editors

Miles A. Kimball is Professor and Department Head of Communication and Rhetoric at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, USA

Charles Kostelnick is Professor of English at Iowa State University, USA.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in Technical Communication, Rhetoric, and Culture

This series promotes innovative, interdisciplinary research in the theory and practice of technical communication, broadly conceived as including business, scientific, and health communication. Technical communication has an extensive impact on our world and our lives, yet the venues for long-format research in the field are few. This series serves as an outlet for scholars engaged with the theoretical, practical, rhetorical, and cultural implications of this burgeoning field. The editors welcome proposals for book-length studies and edited collections involving qualitative and quantitative research and theoretical inquiry into technical communication and associated fields and topics, including user-centered design; information design; intercultural communication; risk communication; new media; social media; visual communication and rhetoric; disability/accessibility issues; communication ethics; health communication; applied rhetoric; and the history and current practice of technical, business, and scientific communication.

The series is proud to congratulate Ehren Pflugfelder on winning the 2018 CCCC Technical and Scientific Communication Award in the category of Best Book in Technical or Scientific Communication for the book Communicating Technology and Mobility: A Material Rhetoric for Persuasive Transportation!

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Modern / 19th Century
LANGUAGE ARTS & DISCIPLINES / Communication Studies
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Human Geography