Sunday, May 8, 2011

Flood courses of the Mississippi River

This fantastic map of the historical twists and turns of the Mississippi River near Cairo, Illinois, was drawn in 1944.  It is reproduced in the New York Times today (link).  In an age of digitally produced information displays, it is fascinating to see the density of historical information represented in this hand-drafted map.  It is reminiscent of the maps Edward Tufte highlights in The Visual Display of Quantitative Information.  Here is Charles Joseph Minard's 1869 map of Napoleon's invasion of Russia that Tufte made famous:

While on the subject of great maps, here is one by George Abel Schreiner in 1924, representing the structure of the world's telegraph cable system (link).

Here is a contemporary graphic representing global Internet flow:

And here is a graph of global cities connections, produced by R. Wall and B. v.d. Knaap in "Sustainability within a World City Network" (link).

What these images have in common is a very simple point: the power of graphical representation to capture complex sets of inter-related data.

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