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ISSUE 14 - January 2014

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Hertzsprung and Russell: The Minards of Astronomy (page 17)
Jos van den Broek, Pedro Russo

Key Words
Infographics, Science Visualisation, Visual Communication, History of Astronomy


This article will explore the history of flow maps, the extent of their use and how astronomy has benefited from this illustrative way of communicating ideas. Flow maps are multidimensional infographics that tell a long story in one single image. In 1812 the French civil engineer Charles Joseph Minard created a flow map that is still dubbed “the mother of all flow maps”, summarising Napoleon’s Russian campaign (Figure 1). Almost 100 years later, in 1910, Ejnar Hertzsprung and Henry Norris Russell created a multidimensional flow map that arguably surpasses Minard’s map in ingenuity — the Hertzprung–Russell diagram. The Hertzprung–Russell diagram represents a major step towards an understanding of stellar evolution, or “the lives of stars”, and is still used in astronomy today.

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