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History of Diagrams

Most of us make use of diagrams in our daily lives –whether it’s for a business presentation or a school assignment. However, we aren’t the only ones making use of this tool of visualizing and understanding data because diagrams have been around for ages!

Diagrams and pictures are known to be one of the oldest forms of human communication. Long before man knew how to write, the cave men were drawing pictures of humans and animals on the cave wall, and using tally to count animals. Similarly, the earliest form of writing, the cuneiform type and later the hieroglyphics –are all a certain type of diagrammatic representations. This shows that man has been trying to translate data and understand logic and arrangement through the use of diagrams.

In the late 3000BC, maps were used in Babylonia and later in Greece. Maps are a form of diagram showing structured representation of different locations organized to depict the spatial relationship with each other –and are probably the oldest form of diagrams used by human beings. However, maps aren’t the only form of diagrams found in history. Historical records show complex arrangement of constellations drawn on paper using dots and lines, diagrams sketched on the ground to assess time (much like the sun dial) and shapes and images used to understand the human body after dissection.

Numeral depictions in the form of calibrations and scales, shapes like circles, triangles, squares, drawings of proportions etc –are all different forms of diagrams. Most of the development in the area of diagrammatic information was by the famous Polymaths, or those involved in science and mathematics. Da Vinci’s images of the human body, architectural forms and complex machinery, Ptolemy’s world map and Al-Bayruni’s mathematical illustrations of the moon in its different phase, all signal a development in the field of diagrammatic illustration.

The renaissance saw an increase in the use of diagrams in science. Particularly in matters of propositions and reasoning –this is why when John Venn introduced his Venn diagram in the 1880’s, his paper was also titled “On the Diagrammatic and Mechanical Representation of Propositions and Reasonings” and detailed the many different types of diagrams which may be used to represent, understand and put forth a proposition. Later on, with the development in technology and the use of computers, diagrams developed to a whole new level, particularly because of the use of diagrams in computer architecture.

While in the past diagrammatic illustrations required trained personnel who would draw graphs, charts, maps and other diagrams mathematically to precision, in this day and age,  the task has become very easy with the use of computers. Diagram editors are software which enables a person to draw diagrams without any professional knowledge. They just require the operator to add values or other data, and the computer generates a precise and accurate version –whether it’s a pie chart or a bar chart, or something complex like a 3D network arrangement –diagramming tools and editors have made the job very easy. Diagraming ediors come in all types for use by newbies or professionals –and may be used in technical, scientific simulation or for marketing or educational projections or presentations.

May 07, 2015 by Vladimir Baranek
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