In an age of rapidly advancing technologies Beautiful Science, opening tomorrow in The Folio Society Gallery at the British Library
, shows that the challenge of presenting big data in innovative ways is not a new one. From 17th century illustrated diagrams to contemporary interactive visualisations, the exhibition explores how advances in science alongside changes in technology have allowed us to visually interpret masses of information.
Beautiful Science, sponsored by Winton Capital Management, explores the work of scientists and statisticians through the ages using the Librarys own vast science collections together with new and exciting technology, focusing on three key themes public health, weather and evolution.
From an early visual representation of a hierarchically ordered universe in Robert Fludds Great Chain of Being (1617) and Florence Nightingales seminal rose diagram (1858), which showed that significantly more Crimean War deaths were caused by poor hospital conditions than battlefield wounds, to a contemporary moving infographic of ocean currents from NASA, this exhibition shows how visualising data has changed the way we see, interpret and understand the world around us.
Dr Johanna Kieniewicz, lead curator of Beautiful Science, says: The British Library is home to the nations science collection and were thrilled to be opening up our fantastic collections in the Librarys first science exhibition. As big data is becoming a topic of such huge interest, we particularly wanted to show the important connections between the past and the present. Data that is centuries old from collections like ours is now being used to inform cutting edge science. Were also delighted to include video interviews with leading experts, Dame Sally Davies, UK Chief Medical Officer, Sir Nigel Shadbolt, chairman and co-founder of the Open Data Institute, David McCandless, data-journalist and designer, and David Spiegelhalter, Winton Professor for the Public Understanding of Risk at Cambridge University.
Following the success of last years Inspiring Science season, the exhibition is accompanied by a range of events including Festival of the Spoken Nerd: I Chart the Library, Seeing is Believing: Picturing the Nations Health with Sally Davies and David Spiegelhalter, Knowledge is Beautiful with David McCandless and a Family Discovery Day.