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William Playfair (1759-1823)
Patricia Costigan-Eaves and Michael Macdonald-Ross
Vol. 5, No. 3 (Aug., 1990), pp. 318-326
Published by: Institute of Mathematical Statistics
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2245819
Page Count: 9
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William Playfair is a key figure in the history of quantitative graphics. He was a popularizer and propagandist, a prolific designer of charts, and a developer of economic and business graphics. He established the line graph (especially the simple surface chart) as an important alternative to the table for the nonspecialist reader. Although his charts were not quite so original as some have supposed, they do contain graphic design ideas of great interest and occasional brilliance. His Commercial and Political Atlas of 1786 was a notable venture; it began his 36-year career as a graphic communicator. Playfair's understanding of the psychology of the graphic method was remarkable; there was an inner coherence to his picture of the reader's psychological needs which is strikingly modern (the paper contains excerpts from his many publications).
Statistical Science © 1990 Institute of Mathematical Statistics