Monday, December 01, 2008

Florence Nightingale, Statistics, and Reform

I thought this article was fascinating, about how some of our key approaches to representing statistics were created by Florence Nightingale as part of her social reform effort.
As impressive as her statistics were, Nightingale worried that Queen Victoria’s eyes would glaze over as she scanned the tables. So Nightingale devised clever ways of presenting the information in charts. Statistics had been presented using graphics only a few times previously, and perhaps never to persuade people of the need for social change. In doing so, she ignored the express advice of her mentor, Farr. “You complain that your report would be dry,” he wrote to her. “The dryer [sic] the better. Statistics should be the dryest [sic] of all reading.”


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