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British Library exhibition focuses on data visualisation

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An exhibition at the British Library, running until 26 May, focuses on the importance of data visualisation.

Beautiful Science: Picturing Data, Inspiring Insight is said to show that the challenge of presenting big data in innovative ways is not a new one. According to the library, ‘from 17th century illustrated diagrams to contemporary interactive visualisations, the exhibition explores how advances in science alongside changes in technology have allowed us to visually interpret masses of information.’

The free exhibition, sponsored by Winton Capital Management, explores the work of scientists and statisticians through the ages. It particularly focuses on three key themes – public health, weather and evolution.

According to the British Library, ‘from an early visual representation of a hierarchically ordered universe in Robert Fludd’s “Great Chain of Being” (1617) and Florence Nightingale’s seminal “rose diagram” (1858), which showed that significantly more Crimean War deaths were caused by poor hospital conditions than battlefield wounds, to a contemporary moving infographic of ocean currents from NASA, this exhibition shows how visualising data has changed the way we see, interpret and understand the world around us.’

Johanna Kieniewicz, lead curator of Beautiful Science, commented: ‘The British Library is home to the nation’s science collection and we’re thrilled to be opening up our fantastic collections in the Library’s first science exhibition. 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.’