Pre-1600: Early maps and diagrams
The earliest seeds of visualization arose in geometric diagrams, in tables of the positions of stars and other celestial bodies, and in the making of maps to aid in navigation and exploration. We list only a few of these here to provide some early context against which later developments can be viewed.
In the 16th century, techniques and instruments for precise observation and measurement of physical quantities were well-developed. As well, we see initial ideas for capturing images directly, and recording mathematical functions in tables. These early steps comprise the beginnings of the husbandry of visualization.
The oldest known map? (There are several claimants for this honor.)
The first route map ("carte routière''), showing the whole of the Roman world, a map from Vienna, through Italy, to Carthage; painted on parchment, 34 cm. high, by 7 m. in length. (Named the table of Peutinger, after a 16th century German collector.)
The whole of the Roman world is reproduced on this painted parchment 34 centimetres in height and almost 7 metres in length. Although it is the most reproduced Roman chart, the Table of Peutinger does not make it possible to perceive the extent of the cartographic work undertaken by the Romans. Land conquerors, they had a utilitary vision of geography and their cartographic representations were related to the imperial conquests. Topographers accompanied the Roman armies in their campaigns in order to recognize the conquered grounds. Information collected was used for the military needs and the development of infrastructures such as the routes, but also to describe the routes. The table of Peutinger, named after the XVI century German collector to which it was offered, was a form of very widespread geographical description. If this chart does not bring topographic information, it gives indications of distances and size of the places, very practical information for the traveller. The North-South distances are represented on a smaller scale than the East-West distances, thus making it possible to the traveller to unfold or unroll the section which corresponded to its course.
Calculation of the diameter of the earth by measuring noontime shadows at sites 800 km. apart
Assuming the earth is a sphere, the measured angle between the sites is seven degrees and the circumference is about 50 times 800 km., or about 40,000 km.
Measurement of the year with great accuracy and building of the first comprehensive star chart with 850 stars and a luminosity, or brightness, scale; discovery of the precision of the equinoxes
He seems to have been very impressed that either of two geometrically constructed hypotheses could 'save the appearance' of the path that a planet follows
The Antikythera Mechanism is a unique Greek geared device, constructed around the end of the second century bc. It is known that it calculated and displayed celestial information, particularly cycles such as the phases of the moon and a luni-solar calendar.
Calendars were important to ancient societies for timing agricultural activity and fixing religious festivals. Eclipses and planetary motions were often interpreted as omens, while the calm regularity of the astronomical cycles must have been philosophically attractive in an uncertain and violent world. Named after its place of discovery in 1901 in a Roman shipwreck, the Antikythera Mechanism is technically more complex than any known device for at least a millennium afterwards (Freeth et al., 2006).
This palaeolithic map from 13 660 calBP is one of the oldest maps to date. The map is an engraved stone from the cave of Abauntz and it demonstrates actual surrounding landscape, including mountains, rivers, and ponds. Routes or avenues of access are also engraved.
Map projections of a spherical earth and use of latitude and longitude to characterize position (first display of longitude)
Mechanical diagrams of knowledge, as aids to reasoning (served as an inspiration to Leibnitz in the development of symbolic logic)
Proto-bar graph (of a theoretical function), and development of the logical relation between tabulating values, and graphing them (pre-dating Descartes). Oresme proposed the use of a graph for plotting a variable magnitude whose value depends on another, and, implicitly, the idea of a coordinate system
Catalan Atlas, an exquisitely beautiful visual cosmography, perpetual calendar, and thematic representation of the known world
Invention of moveable type printing press, and printing of the Mazarin bible (leads to a decline in the use of mixed text and graphics)
Use of rectangular coordinates to analyze velocity of falling objects
Description of how to determine mapping locations by triangulation, from similar triangles, and with use of angles w.r.t meridians
The first published illustration of a camera obscura, used to record an eclipse of the sun, on January 24, 1544.
Trigonometric tables (published 1596 posthumously)