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.

6200 BC
Oldest known map?

Konya town map

550 BC
1st world map?

The first world map

References:
Robinson:1982
0366 BC to 0335 BC
1st route map

Peutinger map

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.
References:
Courrier:2005
240 BC
Diameter of earth measured

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.
References:
170 BC
Invention of parchment

References:
134 BC
Star chart

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
References:
100 BC
The first mechanical calculator

Antikythera

Antikythera mechanism

Antikythera front view

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).
References:
Freeth:2006
0 BC
Oldest known palaeolithic map

Palaeolithic map

Image representation of the palaeolithic map

Article about a palaeolithic map A palaeolithic map from 13,660 calBP: engraved stone blocks from the Late Magdalenian in Abauntz Cave (Navarra, Spain)

References:
Utrilla:2009
90 to 150
Latitude/longitude

Ptolemy's world map, republished in 1482

Ptolemy portrait

105
Invention of paper

Tsai Lun portrait

950
Diagram: planetary movements

Planetary movements icon

References:
Funkhouser:1936
1280
Diagram: paired comparisons

Llull portrait

References:
Llull:1280
1305
Diagram: knowledge

Llull's tree of knowledge

Llull's mechanical disks

1350
Proto-bar graph

Oresme bar graph

Page from Oresme

Oresme portrait

References:
Oresme:1482 Oresme:1968
1375
Catalan Atlas

Carte de l'Europe, de l'Afrique du Nord et du Proche-Orient, BNF, ESP 30

Carte de l'Europe, de l'Afrique du Nord et du Proche-Orient, BNF, ESP 30

1450
Graphs of theoretical relation

Nicolas de Cusa portrait

References:
1453
Movable type

Page from the Mazarin bible

Gutenberg type sample

Gutenberg portrait

Movable types in Wikipedia The first known movable type system was invented in China by Bi Sheng out of ceramic between 1041 and 1048.

References:
1500
Rectangular coordinates

da Vinci portrait

References:
daVinci:1500
1530
longitude via clock

Gemma Frisius portrait

References:
Frisius:1530
1533
triangulation

Image from Peter Apianius Cosmographia, edited by Gemma Frissius

Gemma-Frisius Diagram of triangulation

References:
Frisius:1533
1545
camera obscura
Camera Obscura in Wikipedia The first camera obscura was built by the scientist Abu Ali Al-Hasan Ibn al-Haitham, born in Basra (965–1039 AD), known in the West as Alhacen or Alhazen, who carried out practical experiments on optics in his Book of Optics.

References:
GemmaFrisius:1545
1550
Trigonometric tables

References:
1556
Land survey

Tartaglia portrait

References:
Tartaglia:1556
1562
Computation of probabilities

Gerolamo Cardano portrait

References:
Cardano:1663 Dahlke:1989
1569
Cylindrical projection

Mercator portrait

1570
1st modern atlas

Ortelius world map, from De Camp 1970

Ortelius portrait

References:
Ortelius:1570
1572
Positions of stars and planets