But as a new exhibition at the British Library shows, the field of data visualisation is far from new.
The Beautiful Science show presents examples of visualisation from the 17th century to the present day.
Early exhibits include Robert Fludd’s Great Chain of Being – a 1617 representation of the order of the universe, and Florence Nightingale’s famous Rose Diagram, showing causes of mortality among soldiers in the Crimean War.
Things are brought up to date with images such as Perpetual Ocean – which uses Nasa data to illustrate the flow of ocean currents, and Martin Krzywinski’s Circles of Life, which illustrates the genetic similarities between humans and other animals including chickens and dogs, and was specially commissioned for the show.
The British Library says the exhibition will illustrate how data visualisation has changed throughout the ages, due to advancements in science and technology.
Dr Johanna Kieniewicz, lead curator of the Beautiful Science exhibition, says, ‘As big data is becoming a topic of such huge interest, we particularly wanted to show the important connections between the past and the present.
‘Data that is centuries old from collections like ours is now being used to inform cutting-edge science.’
Beautiful Science: Picturing Data, Inspiring Insight, is at the Folio Society Gallery at the British Library, 96 Euston Road, London NW1, from 20 February-26 May.
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