No study of the history of scientific communication can be complete without mention of Joseph Charles Minard, a 19th Century French civil engineer and cartographer.
At the end of his life, Minard created two very famous examples of statistical charts, called flow maps, that every scientist, engineer and student should be familair with. The first showed Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps (218 BC, Second Punic War), and the second describes Napoleon’s disastrous invasion of Russia (1812-1813).
Both examples are beautiful works of art and masterful examples of evidence. But they are also more than that, they tell cohesive and interesting stories. In this post, I thought it might be interesting to take a closer look at the history of Hannibal and Napoleon, and highlight the ways which Minard’s charts help us to explain their eventual outcome.
(Note: High resolution, PDF versions of the two maps are available for download. These versions have been translated from the original French. To download, either click on the images, or here for the Hannibal invasion of Northern Italy, and here for the French Invasion of Russia.)
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