Open Access
August, 1990 William Playfair (1759-1823)
Patricia Costigan-Eaves, Michael Macdonald-Ross
Statist. Sci. 5(3): 318-326 (August, 1990). DOI: 10.1214/ss/1177012100


William Playfair is a key figure in the history of quantitative graphics. He was a popularizer and propagandist, a prolific designer of charts, and a developer of economic and business graphics. He established the line graph (especially the simple surface chart) as an important alternative to the table for the nonspecialist reader. Although his charts were not quite so original as some have supposed, they do contain graphic design ideas of great interest and occasional brilliance. His Commercial and Political Atlas of 1786 was a notable venture; it began his 36-year career as a graphic communicator. Playfair's understanding of the psychology of the graphic method was remarkable; there was an inner coherence to his picture of the reader's psychological needs which is strikingly modern (the paper contains excerpts from his many publications).


Download Citation

Patricia Costigan-Eaves. Michael Macdonald-Ross. "William Playfair (1759-1823)." Statist. Sci. 5 (3) 318 - 326, August, 1990.


Published: August, 1990
First available in Project Euclid: 19 April 2007

Digital Object Identifier: 10.1214/ss/1177012100

Keywords: curves , graphic design , graphic method , quantitative graphics , tables

Rights: Copyright © 1990 Institute of Mathematical Statistics

Vol.5 • No. 3 • August, 1990
Back to Top