Where do we get bar graphs from?

Estimated read time 2 min read

Sick and tired of trying to explain how many there were of something in a group, William Playfair hit upon the idea of presenting the data as a chart with bars indicating what was the most numerous compared to the other options. He first published it with the snappily titled “Exports and Imports of Scotland to and from different parts for one Year from Christmas 1780 to Christmas 1781”. In this way anyone looking at it could immediately see that Shortbread going out was far more important than Haggis and that they were getting in a lot of Wheat.

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You probably have the same issue getting data from PDF to Excel so that you can make a nice bar chart. Luckily if you click in the link you might find the answer you’re looking for.

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Playfair’s bar chart sent the statistics and numerical interpretation fraternity into fits of joy and there were no doubt a few toasts in his name. Soon all kinds of data was being displayed in this way so that they could be understood better. However controversy clouded it as some bright spark pointed out that Jacobus de Sancto Martino might have got there first 300 years before Playfair with the equally punchy “Diagrams of the velocity of a constantly accelerating object against time”

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