November 22, 2010, 5:06 pm
By Henry Woodbury
In the BBC News Magazine, mathematician and author Marcus du Sautoy extols the power of diagrams. The cliche that a picture is worth a thousand words misses the point, he explains. A scientific diagram has the power to transcend language, to “create a whole new visual language to navigate a scientific idea” or even show the impossible. “Words” is the wrong unit of measure.
Among other scientists and thinkers, du Sautoy draws examples from Copernicus, Newton, and Florence Nightingale. In that last case, he links to our recreation of Nightingale’s Rose, the circular set of charts that Nightingale created to show relative causes of death of soldiers during the Crimean war.
du Sautoy’s television series, The Beauty of Diagrams, is offered on BBC Four.
I’m surprised that in the magazine article du Sautoy referred to Nightingale’s diagram as a pie chart since it is not, as indicated in the recreation article here. I also think it’s important for anyone who examines this diagram to realize that this is just one of three rose diagrams that Nightingale designed at the same time, each one part of an overall argument.
Posted by Lee Brasseur on November 23, 2010 at 4:25 pm