The Mother of Modern Infographics

We all learned about Florence Nightingale in grade school – how she was a wonderful nurse, saved lives, was a woman to look up to, and all that. I have to admit, I found it boring in my pre-teen outlook on the world, but that may have been the fault of the presentation style at the time, because she is one very interesting woman.


However, what I want to know is why we were never told she was also the mother of the modern infographic? She created a chart (in 1858) that probably saved even more lives than her nursing, because it convinced Queen Victoria to improve conditions within military hospitals. Wow! The power of data visualization!


Ok, so in my case, we were probably not told this because the terms “data visualization” and “infographic” had not yet entered into mainstream use when I was in school and statistics are pretty boring to kids. That point aside, with over 20 years of technical writing under my belt, data visualization has been one of my biggest challenges. How to do it right, how to convey the correct message, how to present the visuals.

I became suspicious of all graphs after my marketing manager showed me how he *really* wanted the graph to look… thus making our numbers far more visually appealing to the folks paying our salaries. Hmmm. Yeah.

I can finally relate to Florence Nightingale, after all these years, and I am very impressed! I celebrate the mother of the infographic. She has impacted my world directly.

Further reading:

Flowing Data: 9 Ways to Visualize Porportions

Wikipedia: Florence Nightingale

National Archives (UK): Florence Nightingale

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