6 charts that changed the world

By | March 27, 2023

This BBC presentation made in partnership with the (British) Royal Society


provides insights on 6 History-changing scientific illustrations, from the XIX to the XXIrst centuries.

  • First Pie Chart by Scottish political economist William Playfair
  • Surgeon John Snow map pointing out the Cholera infection in SoHo, London, 1854
  • Florence Nightingale created the “Coxcomb” uneven pie chart, pointing out unsanitary conditions in hospitals during the Crimean War, and persuaded Queen Victoria.
  • W.E.B Du Bois (American historian and civil rights activist) presented a series of hand-made charts at the 1900 Paris World’s Fair, showcasing the educational, social and business accomplishments of black Americans in the 35 years since slavery had been officially abolished.
  • Spreading misinformation: the Kallikak family tree, “fake news” created by American psychologist and eugenicist Henry Goddard.
  • In 2018, scientist Ed Hawkins was invited to give a speech about climate change at Hay, a literary festival in Wales. He needed to convey the increase in global average temperatures to a largely non-scientific audience. So, he devised a chart that used no words, just colours.
global average temperatures by Ed Hawkins, 2018
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