Chapter 1Data Visualisation

1.1 A Very Brief Introduction to Data Visualisation

1.1.1 A Very Brief History

The graphical display of data has been a fundamentally important aspect of the statistics and its allied disciplines for more than 200 years. The reason for its importance is primarily the insightful guidance that it provides in allowing us to see what story the data are trying to tell us. Therefore, many of the graphical tools that have been developed are fairly simple to construct and provide a quick and intuitive summary of the data. Certainly in the days predating the use of computers, this proved advantageous. Hence, a key reason why the graphical display of data has remained central in so many areas of statistics might be best described by Fred R. Barnard in the 8 December 1921 issue of the trade journal Printers' Ink (although often incorrectly attributed as a Confucian proverb):

One picture is worth ten thousand words.

Therefore, a great deal of attention has been given to the topic of finding simple and informative ways of graphically depicting the information contained in data. The classic text of Tufte (2001) provides a comprehensive description of the history of data visualisation and is aimed at the general audience. He also includes the good, and bad, practices for ensuring that such graphs say what the data are trying to say. In his introduction, Tufte says of data visualisation that ‘statistical graphics' is a relatively recent phenomenon beginning during ...

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