Magazine article The Spectator

CULTURE NOTES - Charting History

Magazine article The Spectator

CULTURE NOTES - Charting History

Article excerpt

When you're next waiting for a train at King's Cross, don't waste time window shopping on the concourse. Instead, pop round the corner to the British Library to see Beautiful Science: Picturing Data, Inspiring Insight (until 26 May).

It's not an enticing name for an exhibition, I grant you. But the show is beguiling: small, thoughtful and free.

As ever with the British Library, the viewer is treated to rare historic publications. Robert Fludd's The Great Chain of Being (1617) is particularly memorable for its depictions of the 'tree of life', a diagram that encapsulates what this show is about: data representation as a means of storytelling, as artful and beautiful as the finest novels and poetry in the library's collection.

Every table and chart in this exhibition reveals something pro found about natural or human history - whether it is the evolution of a bird species or the incidence of cholera during the Crimean War (Florence Nightingale's famous 'rose diagram' is on show). …

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