Data Visualisation and Florence Nightingale with RJ Andrews


We talk about Florence Nightingale's intriguing story, and how she used data visualisation in her campaign for sanitary reform.

RJ Andrews is author and founder of Info We Trust. He is also the editor of the Information Graphic Visionaries book series. RJ’s talent is helping organisations solve information problems. His passion is studying the history of information graphics to discover design insights.

In our conversation, we talk about Florence Nightingale’s intriguing story, and how she used data visualisation in her campaign for sanitary reform.

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RJ Andrews’s Books

Emma Willard, Maps of History by RJ Andrews website

Florence Nightingale, Mortality and Health Diagrams by RJ Andrews website

Étienne-Jules Marey, The Graphic Method by RJ Andrews website

Information Graphic Visionaries book series
Information Graphic Visionaries: Emma Willard, Florence Nightingale, & Étienne-Jules Marey

Show Notes

[00:01:15] RJ’s journey from mechanical engineering to data visualisation.
[00:02:52] Cultivating the craft of communicating through data visualisation.
[00:03:13] Embodied cognition.
[00:06:44] Motivations for creating the Information Graphic Visionaries series.
[00:06:49] Lessons from writing his first book ‘Info We Trust’.
[00:07:09] Maturity in the area of publications in this field.
[00:07:45] Elevating and giving recognition to icons in the field.
[00:08:45] Creating beautiful artefacts.
[00:09:26] Data visualisation and Florence Nightingale’s work.
[00:10:15] Sharing knowledge and statistics with William Farr.
[00:11:35] Data visualisation for communication vs statistics.
[00:12:42] The state of statistics in the period.
[00:14:29] Social reform and a burst of collection of data in Great Britain.
[00:15:15] Data and statistical standardisation had not yet reached the military.
[00:16:54] The challenges Nightingale faced with the military.
[00:17:18] Supply chain.
[00:17:39] Sanitary reform.
[00:18:05] The concept of health being associate with cleanliness.
[00:18:34] Nightingale narrowing her focus to sanitary reform and hygiene in the built environment.
[00:20:04] Evolutions and refinement of visualisations.
[00:20:27] A scathing narrative of the problem and solution.
[00:21:59] Propaganda and what it takes to achieve reform.
[00:23:06] Nightingale’s relationship with celebrity and its practicality.
[00:23:48] The perceptions of Nightingale and her work behind the scenes.
[00:27:43] The soft power of celebrity.
[00:29:49] The power of access.
[00:30:25] The novelty of Nightingale’s visualisations.
[00:31:05] What made Nightingale’s diagrams successful.
[00:31:16] The diagrams do not stand alone.
[00:31:35] Publicity and distribution.
[00:32:22] High production value.
[00:33:27] The evolution of her work.
[00:35:01] Novelty vs utility in data visualisation.
[00:36:27] Long-form content and attention spans.
[00:37:06] Information design norms.
[00:38:09] The impact of Florence Nightingale’s work in data visualisation.
[00:40:04] The most interesting parts of the process of creating the book.
[00:43:37] The interconnectedness of the period.
[00:44:12] John Snow and the Broad Street Pump.
[00:47:58] Bonus Question 1: What hobby or interest do you have that is most unrelated to your field of work?
[00:49:22] Bonus Question 2: Which childhood book holds the strongest memories for you?
[00:52:28] Bonus Question 3: What advice you would give someone who wants to do what you do? Or what advice should they ignore?

Topics/Resources/People Mentioned

Coming soon.


Additional Resources

Florence Nightingale’s Mortality and Health Diagrams.

Diagrams of the Mortality in the Army in the East
Diagrams of the Mortality in the Army in the East. Image from the Wellcome Collection.
Diagrams of the Causes of Mortality in the Army in the East
Diagrams of the Causes of Mortality in the Army in the East. Image from the Wellcome Collection.
Diagrams Representing the Mortality in the Hospitals
Diagrams Representing the Mortality in the Hospitals. Image from the Wellcome Collection.

Find out more about RJ Andrews and their work

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