All 5 books, Edward Tufte paperback $180
All 5 clothbound books, autographed by ET $280
Visual Display of Quantitative Information
Envisioning Information
Visual Explanations
Beautiful Evidence
Seeing With Fresh Eyes
catalog + shopping cart
Edward Tufte e-books
Immediate download to any computer:
Visual and Statistical Thinking $5
The Cognitive Style of Powerpoint $5
Seeing Around + Feynman Diagrams $5
Data Analysis for Politics and Policy $9
catalog + shopping cart
New ET Book
Seeing with Fresh Eyes:
Meaning, Space, Data, Truth
catalog + shopping cart
Analyzing/Presenting Data/Information
All 5 books + 4-hour ET online video course, keyed to the 5 books.
The work of Charles Joseph Minard


A translation of Minard's obituary by Dawn Finley.
Source: V. Chevallier, "Notice nécrologique sur M. Minard, inspecteur général des ponts et chaussées, en retraite," Annales des ponts et chaussées, 2 (1871), 1-22.

Annals of Bridges and Roads. Memoirs and Documents Relating to the Art of Constructions and in the Service of the Engineer.

Number 15. Obituary of Mr. Minard, general inspector of bridges and roads, in retirement, by Mr. V. Chevallier, general inspector of bridges and roads. [Paris, 1871]

In the middle of our disasters, [it is sad] that the old men are not able to withstand the anguishes of the present and the threats of the future! Thus appears to have succumbed, after only several days of sickness and in the plentitude of his intellectual faculties, an eminent engineer who was about to reach ninety years and whom death seemed to have forgotten. Stationed in Paris for twenty-two years, Mr. Minard, dreading the bombardment that he foresaw, left for Bordeaux September 11, 1870, and at the end of six weeks was carried away by an attack of the fever.

In the course of his long career as an engineer, he had the good fortune to take part in almost all the great questions of public works which ushered in our century; and during his twenty years of retirement, always au courant of the technical and economic sciences, he endeavored to popularize the most salient results.

Mr. Charles Joseph Minard was born in Dijon March 27, 1781; he therefore witnessed the last days of the old regime, and he retained a profound memory of them. His father, clerk of the court and officer of the secondary school of Dijon, sought early to develop in him the taste for practical studies. He had made him learn at four years to read and to write, and at six years he took him to an elementary course in anatomy, taught by the doctor Chaussier and which keenly interested the child. Next the young Minard was sent to the secondary school at Dijon, where after having completed his fourth year early, feeling in himself little penchant for Latin and literature, he devoted himself with ardor to the study of the physical and mathematic sciences and especially their applications; and he loved to recount how at thirteen, in his totally patriotic zeal, he had wanted to extract the saltpeter from the earth of his cellar, and with what emotion he had perceived the first filaments of the crystallized salt.

At the secondary school at Dijon he began with two of his fellow students, Mr. Désormes and Mr. Clément, a very lively friendship which only increased with time. The three young students devoted themselves for hours of their free time to philosophical talks on human knowledge, and Mr. Minard certainly owed to this mutual teaching of his youth the full development of his eminently observant and practical spirit.

At fifteen and a half, he was received at the Polytechnic school, a still recent creation to which many of his compatriots had contributed, and he found his studies there in harmony with his tastes, and some professors, among others Lagrange and Fourrier, who made on him a profound impression. He left there in order to go to the School of Bridges and Roads.

This school still felt the effects of its first organization, where it had to train students who upon entering there knew only a little calculation and drawing.

The Corps of conductors, today so strongly constituted, only lent their very restrained support to the engineers; and the students, in their annual assignments, had practically exclusively to familiarize themselves with the operations of leveling, the drawing up of plans, and the practice of arithmetic.

It is in this way that Mr. Minard had first to cooperate in the leveling connected with the layout of the canal of Saint-Quentin.

Next he began studies of the canal of Charleroi in Brussels; and in order to gauge the streams which were needed to feed the canal, he embarked upon some experiments, which he published later, on the flow of the water by the openings of slender walls.

His intelligent studies had been so well appreciated that he was charged like an ordinary engineer, under the orders of the general inspector Gauthey, to finish in Paris the complete project of the canal of Charleroi, a project that the Council of Bridges and Roads had approved in 1804, but that was not carried out until 1827 by the Belgian government with very little changes.

It is during his stay in Paris that he knew Montgolfer the younger, friend of Désormes and Clément, even though much older than they; all four met together almost every Sunday, and Mr. Minard retained a great admiration for the original and inventive spirit of Montgolfer, for his eminently instructive conversation, and for his calculation in his head and his giving to all theoretical ideas practical forms.

Sent provisionally to Angers in 1805 for a service of the district, he was designated in November 1806 for the military port at Rochefort, where varied subjects of studies and applications served to supplement his technical education.

Already one of his old comrades at the Polytechnic school, Hubert, later appointed corresponding member of the Institute, resided in Rochefort as an officer of the naval engineers. Hubert practiced practical science. This was also the tendency of Mr. Minard; and the same tastes established between them a solid relationship.

Hardly having arrived, Mr. Minard, predicting the important role that iron would come to play in great public works, wished to know in depth the work of the forge [smithy], and he learned in the ateliers [workshops] of the port the trade of the blacksmith; and a long time afterwards, as superintendent of the School of Bridges and Roads, he demanded that the students at least be made to know practically the operations which iron undergoes, by carrying out under their eyes the principal handling of smelting, smithing and fitting.

Mr. Minard, in the port of Rochefort, was able to give free rein to his activity: he constructed there the busquées gates of new forms, the oil shop, the sculpture atelier, and the store with borders of iron and wooden carpentry; and each of his studies and his constructions carried the stamp of his observant and judicious spirit.

It is for the shop with the borders, in 1809, that he employed convicts as workers with as much success as economy, a fertile idea that much later in Toulon received from Mr. Bernard the happiest developments.

But his work was completed, his projects deferred: and Mr. Minard requested new occasions to deploy his activity.

In September 1810 he was sent, under the orders of the chief engineer Boitard, to Anvers first, next almost immediately to Flessingue. In this last port, the English had just destroyed the chamber walls of the lock and the wood linings of the wet dock; and it was a question of repairing the basin and of giving the lock more width and depth so that it could let the larger vessels of the time pass.

A coffer dam isolated work from the sea, but it failed to exhaust the lock and the basin. The Archimedes screw, even with the perfections it had received in Holland, had been too slow, too cumbersome, and too costly. Mr. Minard thought of using some pumps driven by a steam engine. A first application of this system had been made in the French empire at the works of Cherbourg, the second was going to be done in the far-away island of Walcheren, and it succeeded perfectly thanks to the clever provisions taken by Mr. Minard.

While rebuilding the quays of the basin, he actively occupied himself with the delicate and bold modifications that the lock was going to undergo.

The foundation raft had been originally formed, following the Dutch practice, of piling embedded on 2 meters thickness in brick masonry, and covered with a general netting with two floors. A floor was removed: a gutter was reserved in the middle of the high foundation raft to let pass the skittle of a ship of the line, and the doors rested against the busc only by one thrust of 0.15 meters; 1.19 meters depth was gained in this way. Finally the chamber walls rebuilt in recess of their first position gave to lock 17.54 meters of width on all the height; while previously this width was 14.51 meters at bottom, 16.15 meters at the top.

The lock thus remade was let open in 1812 to navigation and returned in 1815 to the Dutch government; after two strong repairs to the foundation raft in 1834 and 1841, it functioned until 1847. But at this later time it was perceived that the foundation raft was raised under the pressure of water, the hand-dredges used to unsilt the floor had pulled up the mailletage and permitted the invasion of some worms. The foundation raft was then rebuilt in masonry in the well-known shape of an inverted vault, but with a loss of more than 0.20 meters to the original depth.

The works carried out by Mr. Minard always so skillfully and so rapidly, in some very difficult circumstances, have largely contributed during thirty-five years to expand the role of the military port of Flessingue.

These works, however, Mr. Minard could not finish completely; violent attacks of the fever forced him to leave Flessingue; he left there the project of the large store which receives the tackles of the unarmed vessels.

At the beginning of 1813, after several months of rest, he was sent to Anvers, where he began a form intended for warships; at the same time he was promoted to the first class of his rank.

The foundation of this form put him in the grip of serious difficulties, and he has told in the Annales des ponts et chaussées how, despite a ceaseless surveillance, the excavations were one day unexpectedly overrun by a large irruption of sand and water. Nevertheless the principal difficulties had been happily surmounted; and the interior masonries elevated themselves up to the second bench. But after 1815 the government of the Netherlands, without doubt at the instigation of England, filled all the works, and it is on their site that one of the buildings of the warehouse rises.

Confined in the besieged town of Anvers, Mr. Minard always retained a sharp impression of some bloody episodes of the bombardment; and these are some memories which made him leave Paris last year at the approach of the Prussians.

When Anvers was evacuated, Mr. Minard was restored to service of the Bridges and Roads, and finding himself without destination, he used his forced leisure time for doing, with his friend Désormes, experiments on resistance to extension of wood, of iron, of smelting, of steel, of copper, of cannon metal, etc. The principal results of these have been recorded by Navier in his lessons on the resistance of materials (2nd ed.), and by Poncelet in his introduction to industrial mechanics.

As today, the war had destroyed many bridges: Mr. Minard was charged in January 1815 with reestablishing the communications at Trilport; and under the orders of the chief engineer Eustache, he briskly threw over the Marne a provisional bridge in framework, which was next replaced by a bridge in masonry.

Called to municipal service in Paris at the end of 1815, he applied himself there with zeal; he wanted notably to ameliorate the provisioning of pavement; and he drew up a complete project of the canal and of the railway in order to bring to Paris paving stones from the valley of Yvette and the waters of this little river. This remarkable project, the fruit of long research and of serious meditations, that Mr. Minard published in 1826, had been approved by the Council of Bridges and Roads on September 10, 1822; but the city's finances did not permit it to be completed.

It is during this stay in Paris, in 1821, that in a printed paper he refuted a theory published by a knowledgeable chief engineer, who believed to have found a new way to diminish the quantity of water that boats use in the passage of the locks, and further claimed that by a particular combination of the height of their fall with the draught of the ships, one could nullify this use and even make the water rise again in the space between two locks of the canal.

Mr. Minard, [because he was] attracted by the work and [because his] excellent services had captured the attention of the administration, was sent in September 1822 to Chalons-sur-A Sane as chief engineer of the canal of the Centre.

He had just married the second daughter of Mr. Désormes, whose elder daughter had married Mr. Clément, and to the ties of friendship were added the ties of family.

At the canal of the Centre, he made numerous and important checkings of the flow, several aqueducts and 59 pairs of lock gates.

The canal had lost a lot, especially at Vertempierre; he proposed, in order to stop it up, some masonry and some covers of hydraulic mortar which succeeded perfectly and have since been imitated in other canals. The seals especially, recovered with earth, have been generally adopted, because they are economical and durable and because they do not modify the section of the canal.

In the middle of these delicate operations a terrible blow came to strike him; a son who was entering into his second year was taken from him in a few hours by one of those pitiless illnesses that decimate children.

Thanks to the paternal benevolence of the administration, who wanted to divert him from his grief, Mr. Minard was sent on the canal of Saint-Quentin, where, as at the canal of the Centre, considerable losses rendered navigation intermittent; and the same procedures had the same successes.

The canal of Saint-Quentin received other significant improvements; Mr. Minard put up there numerous works of art, and he completed the channel of Noirieux which has an underground [depth] of 10 kilometers, archways at 5 kilometers, and which had to be sealed at 2 kilometers.

All the works of perfection were carried out on behalf of the agents of the canal, the Honoré brothers, who had naturally addressed themselves to complete the work with the engineer who had so skillfully begun it: and the administration, after having named Mr. Minard chief engineer of the first class, had authorized him in June 1827 to take a leave.

This mission brilliantly accomplished, he demanded to return to the service of the State and on November 1, 1830 he was named superintendent of the School of Bridges and Roads of which Prony had for a long time been the director; not long afterward, he received the cross of the Legion of Honor.

The old courses were insufficient, and had been rejuvenated by some skillful professors, Brisson, Navier, Coriolis, Duleau, Dufrenoy, etc.; and, in 1832, Duleau who taught all the courses of construction having been carried away by cholera, Bernard was charged with the roads and bridges and the maritime works, and Minard with inland navigation.

Additionally, Mr. Minard, in order to fill in a lack in their education, had to give the students some notion of railways.

As for the canals and rivers, he had gathered, be it in the lessons of his predecessors, be it in the memories of his own experience, all the elements of a very interesting and essentially practical course.

As for the railways, he found in France only very imperfect documents, and the roads outlined to some extent of Saint-Etienne, of Roanne and some others: he went to England, at his own expense, to research information he lacked. He visited all the railways that were in activity or under construction, not only those which for a long time served the coal mines, but especially those which would come to be devoted to travelers and merchandise, and particularly the route from Liverpool to Manchester where Robert Stephenson, in a famous contest, had so brilliantly inaugurated the reign of the locomotive.

All these documents methodically classified and analyzed, he made the subject of very substantial lessons, where nearly twenty years later one of his successors in teaching, Mr. Maniel, declared to have found an invaluable copy. The rest of his lessons, first written down by his students, have been printed, then almost immediately translated into German, after having had in Belgium, at the same moment as their appearance, the honor of [being] forged.

Besides this trip to England, Mr. Minard accomplished still five others, likewise at his own expense, in France and in foreign parts, during successive vacations from the school, gathering documents not only for the course on railways, but also for the course in inland navigation that he continued to teach, and for the course in maritime works that he would teach later.

These two important classes would be printed in 1841 and 1846; and, like the course in railways, they appeared almost simultaneously in Belgium as counterfeit.

If this last writing, which dates from the very beginning of the railways, can only be considered as a rough outline, the two others on the contrary expose the principles clearly established, so that the examples which, though sometimes few in numbers, are not the less perfectly analyzed and discussed; and more than one chapter still retains its topical interest.

But the double functions of professor and superintendent of the school became too heavy for Mr. Minard, and from 1835 he demanded to abandon these last ones and to devote himself exclusively to the courses on navigation and on railways, which constantly demanded laborious research in order to embrace all of the new works.

It is not until 1836 that the administration granted his request, by giving to him in addition the class on maritime works that Bernard had been obliged to give up.

In 1839 the administration wanted to use more completely his detailed studies and his broad experience; and it named him inspector of a division. But it had him continue his lessons so well appreciated; and only on his insistent requests did he finally prevail in 1842 to resign from his exhausting functions as a teacher, which he had exercised with so much success for ten years.

Almost at the same time that he was named inspector, he received the cross of officer of the Legion of Honor.

At the general Council of Bridges and Roads a new career opened up before him.

The time had come when it was necessary to determine in France the grand arteries of the railways. Limits of inclines, limits of the radii of the curves, technical and commercial conditions of the routes--all were to be fixed.

Thanks to the successive perfections of locomotives, we have been able to increase the superior limits of the inclines, to diminish the inferior limits of the radii of the curves.

But the true conditions of general interest that should preside over a layout have remained the same, and if they have been at first strongly controversial, one can say that they affirm themselves more and more.

In two very remarkable memoirs published in 1842 and 1843, Mr. Minard shows how much it mattered for the fruitful exploitation of the large lines to contemplate less the extreme stations than the intermediate populations.

He stated in principle that the travelers of great distances would not generally suffer to cover the expenses, that it was necessary to think especially of small distances where the far more numerous travelers were finally more productive; and that as a consequence the sketches should aim to serve as best possible the intermediate locales, even at the cost of a certain lengthening of the route. He supported by all the known examples therefore the very great importance of that which he called the partial route; in 1846, he arrived at the same conclusions when comparing the international traffic between Belgium and Prussia to the local traffic in each country; and all the subsequent facts have only confirmed the accuracy of his appraisals.

I heard him many times regret not having been able to win acceptance for his opinion of certain plans which among the others had only been adopted by a weak majority; and as one from Dijon he especially complained that the railway of Bourgogne did not better serve the rich vineyards of the translation Cté d'Or.

He was charged at first during two and a half years with the ninth inspection, which contained the Haute-Garonne, five neighboring departments, the canal of Midi, and some Mediterranean ports.

Mr. Minard had since his most tender youth frail and delicate health, which was only supported by a sober and regular life, and which resisted in this way the attacks of the weather. In 1822 he had an injured muscle on the right leg, in 1826 a sprain to the same leg; these accidents, complicated by more and more intense rheumatism, prevented him from long walks, and the trips that he was able to make by foot were always diminishing.

The remote rounds of midday, especially at this period, were too tiring for him; also despite the interest that certain works of the ninth inspection presented him, he accepted with eagerness in May 1841 the fifteenth inspection, much less distant from Paris, of a route less tiresome, and which contained only five departments, the Loire de Roanne to Orléans, the Allier and the canals of the Berri, of the Nivernais and of the Centre: however, in 1844 and 1845, he prevailed by reason of his more broken and impaired health to be excused from making his rounds. But if he lacked the bodily forces, his intellectual faculties, developed and matured by age, retained all their rigor; and in 1846, the minister of public works, Mr. Dumon, and the under-secretary of the State, Mr. Legrand, who had been able to appreciate Mr. Minard, proposed that King Louis-Philippe bring from six to seven the number of inspectors general, forming the permanent part of the Council of Bridges and Roads, and that he take as a new member an engineer versed at the same time in the two big questions of the day (maritime ports and railways), declaring that the choice should therefore bring itself naturally to Mr. Minard.

The terms of the report to the king are too flattering [to be omitted from] the text.

"Mr. Minard," the report said, "is without contest the member of the Council who has the most deepened, be it as an engineer, be it as a professor at the School of Bridges and Roads, the theory and the practice of works at sea. No member has occupied himself with more interest with the problems of railways from the point of view of political economy. His writings on these two branches of knowledge enjoy a deserved reputation."

It is in these so honorable conditions that Mr. Minard became a permanent member of the Council of Bridges and Roads where, as an inspector of a division, he only stayed one part of each year; and he went from then on to take part in the discussion of all the important questions.

Vast projects had already passed under his eyes, and others would still come to occupy the deliberations of the Council.

It is thus that as a temporary or permanent member he had to examine and discuss all of the great plans of railways, all of the projects of our principal ports of the ocean and of the Mediterranean, and all the improvements proposed for our maritime rivers; and to all of these such serious questions, he provided the tribute of his experience and his knowledge.

In most of the grand technical discussions, Mr. Minard had seen how important it was to a good solution to bring to bear the sound notions of political economy. In 1831, during his stay at the School of Bridges and Roads, he had proposed the creation of a chair for the teaching of this science, and he asked himself thus how the one who would be charged with this course should make it apply to public works. For a long time he had meditated and discussed these matters, he had read the principal economists, and in 1831 he compiled the ideas which seemed to him indispensable to engineers. He therefore submitted his memoir to the famous Jean-Baptiste Say, who wrote him a flattering letter; but Say did not publish it, limiting Minard to creating the opportunity for the application of his ideas. Finally in 1850, more and more devoted to the principles which guided him, he decided to insert in the Annales des ponts et chaussées his elementary notions of political economy applied to public works; and this memoir at once concise and substantial earned him numerous congratulations.

If one considers the difficult works carried out by Mr. Minard in the military ports and on the canals, the important services that he rendered as a professor and as a member of the Council of Bridges and Roads, his advancement may appear a little slow for the time in which he lived. The truth is that Mr. Minard did not know how to value himself, and it is only around the end of his career, when numerous and brilliant services were highly demanded of him, that just rewards came to reach him. I speak of how in 1846 a new place of general inspector had been created for him; and in 1849 he received in the Legion of Honor the cord of commander.

But a decree of 1848 had fixed at seventy years, for the general inspectors, the limit of their active career, and on March 27, 1851, Mr. Minard, while he was dining with his family, received without emotion the decree that put him in retirement dated that very day.

However, he was retained as a member of the commission of Annales des ponts et chaussées, the commission of which he had been a part since the foundation of this collection in 1831.

Those who knew him and appreciated him will certainly regret his departure at the moment when, in all the maturity of his experience and of his judgment, he could still bring to the discussion of important affairs an assistance so active and so clear. His colleagues remember that three days before his retirement, he combatted, with a perfect lucidity and grand authority, the immediate extension of the dikes of the lower Seine downstream from Quillebeuf.

The rule of the age limit, blind and merciless as death, came suddenly to take away from the Corps of Bridges and Roads one of its most eminent members.

Nevertheless, for Mr. Minard, retirement, far from resembling death, became like a second existence, and this last period of his life has not been the less busy or fulfilling.

Happy for his liberty, he came to be able henceforth to devote himself exclusively to certain studies projected or begun over a long period, and always interrupted or thwarted by the obligations of his service.

One time, however, giving in to some friends he had at the Academy of the sciences, he abandoned his life so tranquil and so well occupied in order to go to solicit anew the title of free academic; because he had already failed in 1850, and although written down as the first on the list of presentation, he had only twelve votes.

In 1852, he presented himself again and sustained a new failure. He gave up therefore all other attempts, regretting the strains of the process, but satisfied to have seen up close the savants of our time; and from then on he did not leave his independent life and the studies of his choice.

However, he did not content himself to enjoy sparingly the varied acquaintances that he had made and that he continued to acquire.

Before his retirement, he had published his treatises on construction, his notable memoirs on the partial route, and some technical notices inserted in our Annales. After his retirement, he put out a long series of research as interesting as it was varied, which only death interrupted.

Among his favorite studies, I will cite especially his figurative maps and his graphic tables, the use of which he popularized and to which he attached a well merited importance; because for the dry and complicated columns of statistical data, of which the analysis and the discussion always require a great sustained mental effort, he had substituted images mathematically proportioned, that the first glance takes in and knows without fatigue, and which manifest immediately the natural consequences or the comparisons unforeseen.

Fully convinced of the utility of these applications, he claimed their original conception with a certain pride in two booklets, one in 1865 on the graphic tables and the figurative maps, the other in 1861 on statistics.

Since his first graphic table in 1844 and his first figurative map in 1845, the subjects he treated were as follows:

Passenger traffic on the roads and railways.--- Traffic of general merchandise, and in particular of coal, cereal and wines on the water ways and railways.--- Tonnage of the sea ports of France, of Europe and of the globe.--- Consumption of meats of the butchers of Paris.--- Merchandise passing in transit by way of France.--- Importation of raw cotton in Europe, before, during, and after the war of secession in the United States.

For ten years, the public could see in an exhibition of painting the full-length portrait of the minister of public works in his office, and next to him were represented the figurative maps of Mr. Minard relating to the trade of France.

Thanks in effect to diverse ministers of public works, just as to Mr. de Franqueville, general director of bridges and roads and railways, Mr. Minard had always received from the administration powerful encouragement for his eminently useful maps.

He was able to apply this graphic mode of representation to questions entirely different, which present themselves under a totally original point of view, for example:

Research of the best placement for central administration of the post offices of Paris.--- Density of the populations in the diverse provinces of Spain (each province is covered with parallel hatchings whose spacing is proportional to the population).--- Diffusion of the primitive languages in the ancient world, after Mr. Alfred Maury.--- Comparison of the two campaigns, one of Charlemagne in 791, the other of Napoleon 1st in 1805, after Mr. Amédée Thierry.

Finally, in one of his last maps, at the end of 1869, as by a premonition of the appalling catastrophes which were going to shatter France, he emphasized the losses of men which had been caused by two great captains, Hannibal and Napoleon 1st, the one in his expedition across Spain, Gaul and Italy, the other in the fatal Russian campaign. The armies in their march are represented as flows which, broad initially, become successively thinner. The army of Hannibal was reduced in this way from 96,000 men to 26,000, and our great army from 422,000 combatants to only 10,000. The image is gripping; and, especially today, it inspires bitter reflections on the cost to humanity of the madnesses of conquerors and the merciless thirst of military glory.

Some maps were accompanied by separate explanatory texts: such are his maps, 1) of the movement of cereals in 1853 and 1857, 2) of the production of coal in Europe and the exportation of English coal, 3) of the passenger traffic on the railways of Europe.

Likewise, in August 1867, he discussed in a pamphlet the graphic tables where he had represented the principal results of free trade between France and England, and, a supporter of free trade himself, he was happy to show the advantages reaped by the two countries.

Mr. Minard has again sought in special memoirs to deepen several technical questions the importance of which he sensed.

The decomposition of certain hydraulic mortars by sea water was the object of several articles published separately or in the Annales des ponts et chaussées. Mr. Minard fights the laboratory tests proposed by Vicat, while insisting on the impossibility of condensing the action of time and of the joining together in one tank all the natural circumstances; he allows sanction of new products only [after] long experiments in free water and it is still today the only unquestionable way.

In 1856, two notes in the chronicle of the Annales called attention of the engineers to erosions which were produced by the recent rises in water levels upstream from the bridges and which had brought about the ruin of them. Mr. Minard, in a memoir published at the same time, recalled that he had announced this fact in 1841 in his Course of interior navigation; he cited, as having clearly professed the same doctrine before him, Smeaton in 1778, Mercadier in 1788. Then, by numerous examples which confirm the new facts, he asserts that the next and immediate collapse of the bridges during the rise in water level is due to erosion which then brings upstream piles and sometimes abutments.

The bay of the Seine was also the subject of several memoirs. He examined in February 1856 the nautical future of Le Havre, and in April 1859 the influence which the damming up of the Seine up to Honfleur could have on this port. Finally, in November 1864, in treating the question of the mouths of the navigable rivers, he joined to the new studies on the Seine the history of the work done to the mouths of the Rhone and the Adour.

In December 1869, he published his research on the great constructions of some ancient peoples, research where he developed as much patience as erudition. After having described these great works from a technical point of view, he considers them from a philosophic point of view, seeing in the pyramids of Egypt and of Mexico, or in the immense walls of Babylon, only the lavish pride and inhuman selfishness of their founders, but admiring the long roads constructed in Peru under the paternal administration of the Incas, and especially, by reason of its public utility, the gigantic high wall of China which has for such a long time protected this vast empire against the invasion of the Tartars.

Finally, he leaves two memoirs to which he put the closing touch.

The one, relating to the current studies of the young, contains some ideas for reform that our latest misfortunes fully justify.

The other exposes the very interesting and very instructive history of the canal of Saint-Quentin, where he made his first and his last works.

During his retirement, putting to profit the flexibility of his spirit and the extent of his knowledge, he knew how to delight by varied occupations the leisure which he gave himself.

As much as his strength permitted him, he exploited the riches of our libraries, and he followed with as much assiduity as interest certain public classes, notably those of paleontology and physiology.

He read ardently or made himself read the most important publications relating to our contemporary history, annotating certain passages in order to rectify or modify them. He could do this because since the first republic he had successively found himself in relation with several important personages, and his powerful memory recalled a crowd of interesting anecdotes which he recounted with as much spirit as discretion.

This is not all: sometimes he wrote the memories of his youth, sometimes he occupied himself with metaphysics and philosophy, sometimes finally he wrote his ideas on the music and the musicians of his time, consoling himself thus, he who had always cultivated music with passion, to be forced by the infirmities of age to give up this pleasure.

Mr. Minard wrote without pretension, thinking only to join concision and clarity, and caring little for some negligences of style provided that his thought be clearly expressed.

As a professor, he had the same qualities and knew how to seize the attention of his listeners. The students that he trained during his ten years in teaching certainly will recall his excellent and substantial lessons and his incessant efforts to maintain his classes at the level of science.

Mr. Minard, with a very upright understanding, with an insurmountable tenacity for each opinion which appeared to him just, never compromised with his convictions, seeking in the important discussions, notably for the plans of our great rail lines, only that which he believed to be [in] the general interest, without preoccupying himself with [fear of] offending some particular interests.

If this rigidity of principles and this inflexibility of character have excited against him some animosity by which he could only be honored, he knew, by his solid qualities, how to make for himself and to preserve for himself real friends; several dated from his childhood and his youth, and he had the pain of seeing them successively disappear.

In his later years, the bodily infirmities grew; he moved with more and more difficulty, but he worked always with the same ardor. He received freely those who came to see him, and he held them by the delight of his conversation. His surprising memory, his intelligence as alive as always, his regular habits, his sober life, the care with which his family surrounded him, all put at a distance the idea of a coming end. But faced with the progress of the Prussian army his imagination carried him away; and after some hesitation he decided all of a sudden, Sunday September 11, 1870, to leave Paris, his books, his papers, his intellectual riches and the office which he occupied for twenty-five years. Leaning on crutches, in the middle of this throng of women, of children and of old people who fled as he did, he left for Bordeaux with one part of his family, carrying only one light bag and some studies already begun. He endured very well the fatigues of a night journey, and barely installed at Bordeaux, without other resources than his memory, he reapplied himself to work; but six weeks after his arrival, as strongly frightened of the present as of the future, he was taken for three days by an irresistible fever, and on October 24 he returned [his] soul, full with gratitude towards God, according to his expressions, for the portion of happiness which had been given to him on this earth.

His devoted companion, one of his sons-in-law and his youngest daughter had the sad consolation of softening the bitterness of his last moments. His other daughter and his other son-in-law (the author of this notice), confined in Paris during the siege, only knew after the armistice the cruel loss they had suffered three months before.

Not having been able to pay to Mr. Minard the last respects, I wanted at least to be the faithful and impartial historian of a life so exemplary and so well filled. Would that I could have fully made known the right and just man who leaves indelible regrets with his family and his friends, the untiring savant who devoted his long existence to making himself useful, and the eminent engineer who contributed to rendering illustrious the Corps of Bridges and Roads!

Translation by Dawn Finley

-- Edward Tufte

Graphic Tables and Figurative Maps, by Mr. Minard, Inspector General of Bridges and Roads in Retirement

Charles Joseph Minard, Des tableaux graphiques et des cartes figuratives (Paris, 1862), translated by Dawn Finley, August 2003
The original document is located at the
Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris.


To each his own.


The great growth of statistical research in our times has made felt the need to record the results in forms less dry, more useful, and able to be explored more rapidly than numbers alone; thus, diverse representations have been imagined, among others my graphic tables and my figurative maps.

In giving to statistics a figurative direction, I have followed the general impetus of the spirit of graphic representations.

Today figures apply to everything: the announcements of sale of rural and urban properties, of buildings, of clothes, are always accompanied by plans and drawings; in big criminal trials the plan of the arguments is put under the eyes of the jurors. The [shopkeeper's] book of the day's sales is more the work of the lithographer than of the literary man. In his fables, la Fontaine made animals speak; we wish, even more, that Granville had drawn their likeness. In the expectation of publication, a photographer is attached to every expedition; it is not only books of science which, as has been sometimes seen in the past two hundred years[1], did not carry even on the pages of the text the image of the subjects they treated. In a word, the illustration usurps everything, and in rendering statistics figurative, I have satisfied the need of the day. But have I only made a sacrifice to the taste of the times and have I not contributed to augment the utility and to cut down the time of the study of statistics? This, one will be able to judge if one wishes to read the following pages. [1]

The dominant principle which characterizes my graphic tables and my figurative maps is to make immediately appreciable to the eye, as much as possible, the proportions of numeric results.

I had first imagined, in 1844, a graphic table published in one hundred copies of which Table 1 is a copy, and which represents the number of travelers of the total distance and of the partial distance of several railways.

On one horizontal line I had added end to end the lengths between the stations: it was the bases of so many rectangles of which the vertical heights were proportional to the numbers of all the travelers having passed between two consecutive stations.

One part of these rectangles relative to the travelers of the total distance distinguished itself by a tint more pronounced than that of the part relative to the travelers of the partial distance.

By means of these rectangles and these tints, one appreciated in a single glance the relationship of the numbers of all the travelers having passed between two stations and the relationship between the numbers of travelers of the total distance and the partial distance.

In addition the total surfaces of each rectangle being proportional to the number of travelers carried per 1 kilometer (an important element of the railway traffic), the comparison of these surfaces gave promptly, in an image, that which the written numbers only give slowly by arithmetic multiplication.

Table I

The following year, in 1845, I published in the same system the first graphic table which had appeared on the commerce of the canal du Centre, and of which Table III is the copy. In this one the rectangles refer to diverse merchandise having different colors. This lithographed and colored graphic table was distributed at the end of 1845 to a number of people, engineers, deputies, etc.[2]

This method of representation has a small disadvantage with regard to commercial exploitation: sometimes the journey of the goods cannot be followed easily by the eye, because the rectangles of the same color which represent it are separated by those of another color; and if one really wants to understand the movement of these goods, it is necessary to have a graphic table for that alone.

In this year, applying differently the same system, I had arrived at figurative maps in which the rectangles of the graphic tables are replaced by colored zones which follow the plan of the method of transport and of which the widths are proportional to the traffic.

Table III

In March 1845 I published my first figurative map, related to the discussion of the project of the railway from Dijon to Mulhouse; Table II is a copy of it. The travelers circulating on the routes of the country, taken up between the two cities, were represented there by the colored zones which follow the contours of these routes and which have widths proportional to the number of travelers who passed there in public coaches. Mr. Fremy, then auditeur to the State Council, today [2] counselor of the State and governor of Credit foncier had carefully made of them a summary on the lines.

My lithographed map in two hundred copies, distributed to the members of the Council of Bridges and Roads, to the deputies of the interested departements, to engineers, etc. illuminates the discussion: the idea found there was so pleasant in guiding opinion in the choice of a line in general, and in particular of that which follows the valley of Doubs, that someone produced, under my name, a forgery wherein he had drawn false zones in favor of a rival line through the valley of Ognon.

It is by sight alone that this map, which was found to be eloquent, made visible the relationship between the numbers of travelers, because it will be noticed that it does not carry a single numeral.

To the advantage of an instantaneous evaluation of the relationship of statistical results, the figurative maps adds the advantage of judging them as a whole at a single glance, if they are contained in the ordinary field of vision, at the same time keeping the lines in their respective positions.

Engineers seized these advantages with alacrity. Some months after my figurative map of the travelers between Dijon and Mulhouse appeared, several engineers imitated it in order to support their railroad projects; among them Mr. Reynard, for that from Grenoble to Valence[3], Mr. Leon for that from Poitiers to la Rochelle[4], Mr. Maillebiau for that from Bordeaux to Bayonne[5] produced, in my system, figurative maps of the travelers circulating in these districts.

Table II

Nevertheless, if my maps give immediately simple relations like double, triple, etc., relations which, I repeat, are not obtained by the numbers but by a little longer mental operation, this advantage disappears if it is necessary to compare very disproportionate elements, whereas with numbers, when the smallest has only two figures, with a little time the mind can grasp the quotient; that is why I also write the numbers on several of my maps.

Moreover, the spontaneous evaluation of great quantities has always been very uncertain. Who knows the difficulty the general finds in numbering the enemy troops who appear in his sight? Napoleon himself affirmed that with his long experience, he was not sure he did not mistake them by one quarter at least[6]. And yet nothing can say to the eye the number of men better than the men themselves placed one next to the other.

I do not know in the past of other expressive maps other than those of the first geographers who drew the countries by their animals.

The application of algebra to the geometry of Descartes gives us graphs representing geometrically the correspondence of two variables; and the graphs of the tides were one of the most remarkable applications of his discovery; I am unaware if anyone knows to whom they are due. One sees there a progress in graphic representation, since by the eye one knows the successive heights of the tides.

Applying to this representation of the tides is the ingenious idea which Ons-en-Bray had, in 1734, to draw the graphic table of the prevailing winds by using the wind itself acting on the mechanism. Thus was obtained, for our times, the tide chart, an instrument which uses the sea [3] itself to trace on the paper the hours and the successive heights of the tides, creating the most complete and the most exact graphs of this movement.

In the 18th century, we see the first application, I believe, of the system of Descartes to phenomena without determined law, like those of public economy, for example. Descartes drew the graphs after the correspondence of two variables; one reverses the question, one looks to see if the simultaneous facts, more or less correlative, recorded by abscissas and ordinates, can correspond to known curves or give useful representations.

One sees in the Tables of linear arithmetic by William Playfair[7] printed first in London, later translated into French around 1787, the colored graphs representing the annual prices of corn, the salary of factory workers, etc. (Plate IV, fig. 2).

At first glance, this one of the prices of corn appeared similar to my graphic tables; there are rectangles, but their surfaces have no statistical signification, while those of my rectangles, on the lines of transport, enable one to see the number of tons carried in one kilometer, a result so important for their trading, that one records it always in numbers in the reports.

In the beginning of the century, Layton Cooke published his great tables of the colored graphs representing the annual prices of corn in the north of Europe, those of wool, of meat, of butter[8], etc.

In 1826 I published, in the same system, the diverse elements of the maintenance of the streets of Paris during the last two centuries[9].

In 1833, again in the same system, Tarbe produced tables of the deaths of journalists in Paris during the cholera of the preceding year.

The majority of engineers thus recorded the diurnal heights of water of the rivers.

These are, among many other applications, the ones which were made and which are made still by extension of the system indicated by Descartes; but it is well to remember that, since the elements of facts collected simultaneously have no relation among them, like the qualities of merchandise passing on a canal and the distances that they have traversed there, the system of Descartes has no economic signification nor graphic possibility, and it was necessary to find another method of representation of statistical facts in order to compare them by sight alone.

I heard it said, at the time of my maps, that it had been a long time since someone had made expressive maps; not only do my maps speak, but, even more, they count, they calculate, by the eye; this is the chief point; this is the perfection that I have introduced in my figurative maps by the width of the zones, and in my graphic tables by the rectangles.

Other representations more or less unique have appeared in these last years.

Thus, we have grouped around a compass card, the number of days where the same winds of a port have prevailed. (Plate IV, fig. 4). [4]

In 1827, M. le Baron Ch. Dupin[10], senator, and in 1828, Mr. Balbi and Mr. Guerry[11] searched to show the degrees of instruction and of criminality in the departements by grey tints more or less dark (Plate IV, fig. 4); this very ingenious representation has not been imitated, without doubt because it does not give a numeric appreciation. One can well say that a tint is less dark than another, this one sees. But to say that it is two times or three times less, that is no longer seen, that is not understood.

As a method of counting by the tints, permit me to cite, and only by analogy, the ingenious process of chemical analysis of waters due, I believe, to Gay-Lussac.

In twelve glasses containing the same quantity of distilled water, one dissolves increasing amounts of salt that is found in the water to be analyzed. One deposits there the same quantity of Reagent, so one has twelve precipitates of growing intensities. The same operation, made on the water to be analyzed, gives a precipitate that one can interpolate in the first group. One imagines that, in the same manner of operating, one will approach very near the equality of tints in two precipitates, that which will give the quantity of salt affected; but it is by the equality of the tint (which the eye does not mistake), and not by the different intensities, that one obtains a numeric solution.

I return to graphic representations.

Statisticians devise a circumference in 365 equal parts, prolonging the radii going to these divisions, conveying outside, and apart from the circumference, the proportional widths of the daily observations; next unifying the extremities of these lines by a graphic curve, they have a circular representation of the group of observations during the year; in this way were drawn the daily revenues of the Western railroad in 1858[12] (Plate IV, fig. 3).

Plate IV

I saw this mode of representation in the statistics bureau of the Northern railroad, in 1846.

In 1851, I employed the circles of proportional surfaces in order to represent the production of coal-beds, and in 1852, in order to represent the tonnages of the ports; this last representation permitting placement of the ports with some geographic exactitude, one is able to compare them for size and position.

The representation by circles leaves much to be desired. The mind perceives with difficulty only by sight the connection of the surfaces of the two circles; it is required, in some way, that the mind overlooks the valuation of the diameters which the squares give in relationship to the circles.

But if the separate circles compare badly, the sectors of the same circle compare very well. It is why I have chosen, in my map of the tonnages of the sea ports in 1857, to show through the sectors the relationships of the tonnages of each port relating, one to the coasting trade, and the other to exterior commerce; the sectors had been used already before I made use of them.

In February 1847, Alphonse Belpaire, a Belgian engineer, had published a notice on his beautiful figurative maps (without a date) of roads, rivers and railways of Belgium, drawn absolutely in the same system as that of my maps. He says in this writing that his first map had appeared around [5] two years before the notice; this would be then around February 1845. But we know that it is at this time that I had published my first figurative map. Thus, by admitting the assertion of Belpaire, the two inventions surfaced at the same time in Belgium and in France.

My publications have been imitated more or less promptly. Having sent my colored graphic table of 1845 on the commerce of the canal du Centre to Mr. Comoy, at that time charged with this canal, this chief engineer found the idea so good that he continued it, and each year, since 1851, he has produced graphic tables in imitation of mine[13]; there are only added, and always following my system, the representation of the importance of the ports of the canal.

By a circular of 20 December 1854, the administration of bridges and roads recommended the application of the graphic tables of Mr. Comoy (that is to say of mine) to the principal navigable lines, and this prescription was followed.

In 1856, Mr. Nicolas, engineer of bridges and roads, brought together, in the form of interesting graphic tables, the different circumstances of the exploitation of our railways since their beginning.

In 1857, Garella, engineer-in-chief of mines, published a graphic table of the movement of travelers on the system of railways of the West.

One of the happiest applications of my system of figurative maps was made in 1859 by the chief of railway statistics for the Minister of Public Works; it shows the movement and the number of troops sent to the war in Italy in 1859.

Just recently the administration of bridges and roads, adopting my system, prepared a large figurative map in twelve pages on the traffic of imperial routes in 1856-57.

After some years the railroad companies have adopted my graphic tables in order to represent their traffic of slow trains.

The company of Orleans, considering my system from a particular aspect, deemed it excellent from the point of view of railway administration; but it did not seem fit to me to make known this modification.

His Excellency the minister of agriculture, of commerce, and of public works, upon the enlightened and benevolent presentation of the director general of bridges and roads and railways, having been pleased by the majority of my maps, I was able to publish to the number of almost ten thousand copies. These included graphic tables and figurative maps on diverse subjects such as the traffic of travelers on the roads and railways, merchandise in general, and in particular of coal, grains, and wines, on the waterways and railways; the tonnages of sea ports of France, of the sea ports of Europe and of the globe, the consumption of meats of butcher's shops in Paris, the merchandises passing in transit by way of France, and lastly the importation of raw cotton in Europe, etc. etc.

My figurative maps and my graphic tables having been presented to the Emperor, His Majesty [6] well wished, in accepting them, to make me know "that he had regarded them with interest and that he would make use of them[14]."

Strengthened by this august commendation given to my publications so well received in France and abroad, I feel, at more than eighty years, the satisfaction of having given birth in my old age to a useful idea, of having spread it by way of numerous applications, and of thus rendering again some service at the end of my career.




Paris, 1 December 1861. [7]

[1] Ars magna lucis et umbrae, by Kircher. Rome, Luis Gringnani, 1656. -- Discours de la methode de Descartes [Treatise on the method of Descartes], Paris, Louis Legras, 1650.

[2] It is of this table that Mr. Teysserene, deputy of the Herault, to whom I had given it, said, in his Etudes sur les voies de communication [Studies on the means of communication], printed in 1857: "The Inspector general Mr Minard has published a graphic table on the commercial movement of the canal du Centre which indicates at once the tonnage, the direction of movement and the length of the routes of the different kinds of merchandise, etc." (Page 657 of the proofs). It is also this table of which Mr. Comoy, to whom I had addressed it, spoke in the memoir inserted in the Annales des ponts et chausses [Annals of bridges and roads]. March and April 1853, p. 175.

[3] Memoir and report of the middle of 1853.

[4] Ibid. 20 August 1855.

[5] Ibid. January 1856.

[6] Histoire du Consulat et de l'Empire [History of the Consulate and the Empire] by Mr. Thiers, t. XVI, p. 533.

[7] Printed in London, by W. Sams, James's street, number 1, translated into French, edition of ...... Barrois, Paris, 1787...... (at the Imperial library).

[8] London, 69 Great Russel street, Bloomsbury square.

[9] Projet de canal et de chemin de fer pour le transport de paves a Paris [Project to bring paving stones to Paris by canal and railway]; by Delaforest, rue des Noeyers, 37, Paris, 1826.

[10] Pl. I, from Forces productives et commerciales de la France [Productive and commercial forces of France].

[11] Paris, by Jules Ronouard, rue de Tournon, number 6.

[12] Unpublished lithographic table, by Mr. Massicart.

[13] When two of these tables were sent to the universal exhibition of 1855, I had to reclaim my precedence. It was recognized by the international jury, which expressed itself thus, page 436, of their published report: "Next to these beautiful models exhibited by the minister of public works are found: 1 . . . . . . . 2 the graphic tables of the traffic on the canal du Centre in 1852 and 1853, drawn up by the engineer-in-chief Comoy, after the system that Mr. Minard, inspector general of bridges and roads in retirement, had imagined and applied to the representation of the traffic on the railways in 1844, and on the canal du Centre in 1845. Signed Mr. Wertheim, reporter."

[14] Just recently the map of the importation of cotton was put under the eyes of the Emperor: "His Majesty examined it with a lively interest and showed the intention of consulting it as necessary."

-- Edward Tufte

Statistics by Mr. Minard, Inspector General of Bridges and Roads in Retirement.

Charles Joseph Minard, La Statistique (Paris, 1869), translated by Dawn Finley, August 2003



Statistics is the recording of similar facts in a systematic, numeric or chronological order.

Memory is the intuitive recording in the mind of ideas or of sensations, which have more or less made an impression on us.

Statistics is a knowledge acquired by experience and from which we deduce the consequences by reasoning.

Memory is an involuntary and primordial faculty of the soul, indispensable to all reasoning.

By pointing out at the beginning the analogy between Statistics and one of the elements necessary to our understanding, I wished to liberate it from the inferiority where it has been placed by the learned; because if memory is indispensable for the acquisition of our intellectual knowledge, Statistics is the basis of several sciences at which we would not have arrived without it. I am going to attempt to show this and in that way I will free Statistics from the kind of scorn where it remained for a long time.

Today opinion is modified; we have been enlightened on the real merit of Statistics since we are more occupied with the sciences; we have recognized the necessity of Statistics for some of them and its usefulness for others. If there are some purely intellectual sciences, like [1] geometry, there are others for which Statistics is the origin and the foundation.

There is moreover a new genre of Statistics which is becoming more widespread these days and which distinguishes itself by the intervention of form; it is a Statistics at once figurative and numeric. The applications, rare in other times, are numerous today.

An infinity of facts, of ideas, of principles, only have strength by the number of those who agree to them, so that they only acquire the title of truths by the comparison of numbers for or against, that is to say by the results of statistical research.

We could even establish three categories, one of those who advance a fact prone to controversy, the other of those who deny it, and the third of those who do not find any reason to have an opinion.

To give some examples:

Is there in the human heart some principle of justice, concerning good or evil, which we can apply to others? In a word, is man born good or evil or neither one nor the other?

Consult the philosophers. Some say yes, others say no, and there are even those who have said yes in one passage of their writings and no in others, so that to tell the truth, one does not know absolutely what they think. Would it not be necessary, if one wanted to know how to leave it, for those who find in their heart no determining feeling, to do the Statistics which I indicate?

After it was found that electromagnetism has an effect on animal husbandry..... a German (I believe) thought that there was a great electrical current always flowing from the East to the West[1] at the surface of the earth, and that the recumbent position of a sleeping man being ordinarily the straight line from the feet to the head, he who has passed a great part of his life in the same bed has been pervaded by this current, whenever the length of the bed was in this direction; that accordingly the electromagnetic action producing always the same result during a third of his life, should result in physiological effect, to which this German thinks that we can attribute the different degrees of longevity.

What index did he have of this effect? What proof of it did he give? [2] I am not aware of any; but it seems to me that the method to ascertain it would be to compare, all things being equal otherwise, as much as possible, the longevity of persons who have slept for a long time in beds having the same orientation; it is then statistical research alone which would be able to illuminate the question.

In 1863, in a crowded scientific meeting at Newcastle, a competent man declared that England would not have more coal at a reasonable price in two hundred sixteen years. Great was the emotion of the assembly. Little by little the alarm spread abroad and the question came to Parliament in May 1866. The most contradictory opinions on the duration of saleable coal in England were found there. The government acknowledged that it did not have sufficient information to respond. In that case everyone, government, Parliament, manufacturers, tradesmen, scientists felt the necessity of complete Statistics for the coal banks of the United Kingdom, for their layers, for their depth, etc. Accordingly, 28 June 1866, the Queen named, to do research and to draw up these Statistics, a commission composed of twelve members of the most illustrious competence.

Such is the homage paid to Statistics by one of the most enlightened people of the world. Unfortunately Statistics alone cannot reassure England, because if it can say what quantity of coal is hidden in the depths of the earth, the figure of the future waste remains unknown in the depths of human ignorance; only providential foresight can tell.



The science of legislation begins as it were with Statistics. In the Spirit of the Laws how did Montesquieu proceed? He did not take men in the state of nature and search metaphysically for the laws to which they had to be subjected in order for them to live in society, nor what kind of government to ascribe to them. He takes the societies such as he finds them with diverse governments; he considers, as d'Alembert says[2], the habitants of the universe in the real state where they are and in all the contacts they can have among themselves; he [3] occupies himself more with the laws that we have made than with those that we should have made. His work, so highly esteemed, was hence conceived at the start in a spirit of analytic, descriptive, sometimes chronological Statistics.



What is physiology? The explanation of the functions of the organs of the human body; but in order to better understand the interplay, words are not sufficient; it is necessary to see the configuration of the organs, and [the way] this varies with the sexes and age; from it one derives the demonstration of an anatomy, that is to say a description of the organs, at once figurative and chronological. Thus treatises on physiology do not contain less than thirty illustrations for the embryo and the fetus, with various enlargements.

This is not yet all. Functions having the same aim take place in organs of varied forms in the different animals; we soon recognized that the explication of the functions of human organs could be better remembered and more perfectly comprehended by examination of the forms and similar organs of the animals, where there are very remarkable functions among some and almost none among others. Also one finds today in the dissertations on human physiology several examples of comparative physiology. Consequently, one sees what extension anatomical statistics takes. Finally, the study of human physiology is accompanied by an anatomy of which figurative and chronological statistics becomes each day more extensive and more useful.



A lot of natural sciences have had as a base Statistics which are unique to them.

Tournefort had founded his botany on a figurative statistics of the flowers of the vegetables that he classed in diverse families, of which the names indicated the shapes of the corollas.

Thus, he had the family of the Papilionaceous, that of the Labiates, that of the Cruciferous, etc.

The eminent Linnaeus reversed these Statistics, and substituted for them his own founded on the number of the stamens. Thus, he has the genres [4] Monandrious (one stamen), Diandrous (two stamens), Tetrandous (four stamens), etc.



A curious example of figurative Statistics is given by Mr. Baudoin in his handsome report on primary education and special teaching in Germany. This inspector general of public instruction has added to the text and to the figures more than thirty colored figurative tables, which represent at once the nature, the succession and the time of studies, and make understood consecutively the course and the progress of the teaching. One of the most remarkable[3] is that of Realschulen du Wurtemberg, where one follows with the eye the greater and greater curtailments of Latin from 1818 until 1864, the year when it was completely abolished[4].



What would paleontology be, that is to say the description of animal and vegetable fossils, if we did not add to it the order in which we suppose that they followed one another, that is to say chronological and figurative Statistics of these primitive beings?

Thus Mr. Bayle, the knowledgeable professor of paleontology at the school of Mines, has given an ingenious application of figurative statistics, in order to show the appearance on earth of animal fossils.

Here is the table that he drew for his course (1854) to show the appearance of Trilobites.

On a horizontal line were written the formations; on a vertical column were written the kinds of Trilobites.

Then drawing the horizontal zones from the nominal columns of types and interrupting them under the titles of formations in which one has not yet found the designated types, one has figurative statistics indicating the chronological appearances of Trilobites contemporary to the formations (See the diagram hereafter). [5]




The geographer Berghaus has drawn up some very curious maps of the world where zoological statistics are established by the representation of the special animals of each country. Thus the tiger represents India, the camel Arabia, the kangaroo New Holland, the giraffe the center of Africa, etc.

To move from the serious to the humorous, I remember the map of France for the epicure, where the Statistics of the departements are shown by the gastronomic masterpiece of each of them; thus the departement of the Bas-Rhine is designated by the pate de foie gras of Strasbourg, the Meuse by the confections of Bar, the Areyron by the cheese of Roquefort, Saone-Loire by the poularde of Bresse, Lot-et-Garonne by the terrine of Nerac, etc.



Facts similar to each other have been represented by intensities of color; we know the ingenious system of maps of instruction and of criminality in the departements by Senator Dupin, distinguishing each of them by tints more or less dark. This representation indicates more or less, but not how much. Because the eye, which can distinguish the resemblances of lengths, is powerless to number the intensities of one color, it cannot tell from two red tints that one is two or three times more red than the other.

I thus sought to remedy the inconvenience, and I imagined the production of diverse tints, like the engravers make by parallel lines, but in exact proportion to the fact that one wants to represent. The intensity becomes thus a geometrical consequence susceptible to a numerical enunciation.

I presented, in 1866, the first example of my process of tints determined geometrically in a map of the populations of specific provinces of Spain. [7]



I had imagined graphic tables representing the numbers of travelers circulating on the railways.?? On a table published in one hundred copies in 1844, a horizontal line indicates the lengths between the stations, and the height of each rectangle written between two stations represents proportionally the number of travelers that have passed there.

I had also imagined figurative maps indicating the number of travelers passing on the routes by the widths of the colored zones, proportional to the numbers of travelers that pass there annually.

The first map drawn in this system, in two hundred copies, appeared in March 1845, at the Council of Bridges and Roads, at the occasion of the railway projects between Dijon and Mulhouse. Inspection of the map determined the preference for the valley of Doubs; it does not contain a single figure; it rendered the eye alone judge of the question.

It is said that before my figurative maps, there were other expressive maps; but mine not only speak, even more they count, they calculate by sight: it is this perfection that I introduced with the rectangles in my graphic tables and by the widths of the colored zones in my figurative maps.



One realizes that by substituting goods for travelers, my maps and my graphic tables have spontaneously had numerous commercial applications. Thus I published in 1845 the first graphic table that has appeared on goods passing on the canal du Centre. Thus, published during each of the seven years from 1853 to 1862, my figurative maps give the most striking Statistics making distinguishable in plain sight the tonnages which pass on our lines of water and rail, and making it possible to judge next, with the eye and without calculation, the parts where there is the most commercial movement in France. Figures written transversely to the colored zones give further the exact quantities.?? [8]

I applied this process to the special transport of wines, of cereals and of coal in France, and of animals arrived by railroad in Paris in 1862.

Extending my process, I drew figurative and statistical maps of the annual importation of cotton in Europe before, during and after the civil war in the United States of America, making the eye able to judge the quantities arrived by sea from producers of cotton of diverse countries, and showing relative aid that they brought us in the stages of this critical period, the biggest commercial catastrophe in the world.

I had also represented, by this same process, in two figurative and statistical maps, transport by sea: first of the exportations of our wines in 1864; second of the emigrants in 1858; in a third, the movement of travelers on the railways in Europe in 1862, and finally recently, in a fourth, the importation to France of cereals in the year of scarcity, 1867.

The statistical principle of copious applications, their imitation by the Ministers, by the railroad companies, etc., proves their utility; their numerous applications have proved a rapid growth of figurative statistical richness to which I am pleased to have given wings and to have largely contributed.



Among the sciences to which I would like to show that Statistics has been not only useful, I will cite one that is most elevated by the facts it occupies itself with, by the attainments that it requires, and by the immensity to which it extends: I wish to speak of astronomy.

At first glance, one does not see that numeric tables are able to attain truths as sublime as those which result from them. Yet nothing is more true.

What would we know about the stars and the planets without the observations that Hipparcus recorded two thousand years ago in tables, veritable stellar and planetary statistics of the sky? [9]

One cannot call into question the utility of these Statistics, when one reads what one of the grandest astronomers of the century wrote about them, speaking of the observations of Hipparcus concerning the moon. "This result, fruit of immense work on a very large number of observations, is perhaps the most precious monument of ancient astronomy through its exactitude, etc.[5]..." And later one reads: "Hipparcus undertook a catalog of the stars at the occasion of a new development which appeared in his time... the fruit of this long and laborious enterprise was the important discovery of the precession of the equinoxes."

Certainly, I do not pretend that this discovery is due to the stellar statistics of the sky; Hipparcus was needed in order to draw a conclusion from them, but without the ordering of the facts, he would not have been driven to the inference.

We only know well a few of the observations of Hipparcus transmitted by Ptolemy in his Almageste; but "their comparison with modern observations made of them recognize their exactitude, and the utility they still have for astronomy makes us regret the loss of others[6]." There are therefore statistical results the loss of which one regrets; one must remember at the same time the wide usefulness of Statistics applied to astronomy.

Without carrying ourselves too far back in the past, we come to the times of Tycho, of Kepler, of Copernicus.

Tycho, near the end of the sixteenth century made, during twenty-one years, a prodigious number of observations and transmitted to Kepler a precious collection of them.?? Through their comparison, this one proceeding from hypotheses within hypotheses and excluding those which deviate too much from the observations, he came to establish his famous laws on the movements of the planets in their orbit: first the areas proportional to the time; second the squares of time between them like the cubes of the great axes of the orbits. These laws are not the direct results of his observations and those of Tycho, but through them, Kepler was led there as Hipparcus had been led to the precession of the equinoxes by the catalog of the stars, and Kepler ordered his laws in conformity with his observations in the rudolphine tables, forever memorable in astronomy as derived from the statistical facts.?? We hasten to say that he [10] finished establishing his laws of the squares of time proportional to the cubes of the large axes of the orbits only after seventeen years of fruitless experiments on the analogy of the conic sections known by the Greeks with the planetary movements.

The utility and application of Statistics to astronomy did not stop with Kepler; more than a century after him, Bradley, who discovered and explained the aberration of the stars, left an immense collection of observations of all the phenomena that the sky presented in his times during ten consecutive years; their large number and their precision make this collection one of the principal foundations of modern astronomy[7]. This judgment of Laplace on the statistical collection of the observations of Bradley is one of the most beautiful eulogies that has been made of Statistics.

Thus observations, and always observations recorded and forming at different times the Statistics of the sky, have accompanied, if not brought about, from century to century discoveries in astronomy; one cannot then refuse to place Statistics in the same rank as geometry, optics and other sciences for usefulness in astronomy.



In history Las Cases devised his chronological tables in order to show the contemporary kingdoms and monarchs; and it is still the best method to make the mind embrace the chronological order of historical events by the statistical method.

It is said that Mailly, professor of history at the College of Dijon in 1787, had preceded him in this idea by placing in the columns at the side of the text the contemporary kings written on the same horizontal line for each epoch.

We find elsewhere an ancient application to history of statistics at once figurative and chronological, in what is called the family tree of a princely family of which the descendants are represented figuratively with a happy analogy by the branches of the tree deriving from the principal trunk and the branches of others like the generations of the same family.

The ideas of statistics are conveyed very differently [11] according to the inclination. Thus, in the history of facts, we see Raphael adopt in his Bible a figurative statistics showing, in the same engraving: first, Abraham to whom God gives the order to sacrifice Isaac; second, next to that, a little more distant, we see him drawn in a smaller size walking with his son who has the appearance of asking him where the victim is to be sacrificed; third, much more distant in the country, we see him again drawn in a very small size raising the knife in order to sacrifice Isaac and above him an angel restraining his arms and showing him the ram to be substituted for Isaac. Here is a very singular kind of figurative statistics, where Raphael employed the diminution of the forms in order to represent in the same engraving the different phases of the same story.

Another example of figurative historical statistics is given to us by a very different nation, country and epoch. A similar tableau of ancient Mexican hieroglyphics tells of the misdemeanors of the governor of a province in revolt, his punishment, that of all of his family, and the vengeance excised by his subjects against the messengers of the state bringing orders from the King[8].

In considering the applications of Statistics to history nothing appears to be inadmissible; but here an Englishman, Henri-Thomas Buckle, gave to it recently (1860) a more elevated scope and attributes to it a very debatable power.?? He seeks there the principles of an exact science; he hopes to find facts, which he does not indicate, exposed in a statistical order, the laws which govern history, like those which govern the movement of the stars. Buckle founded his system on the assumption that the facts which at first appeared not to be subject to laws are found, by the statistical research done on them, to have an unexpected regularity, be it by their number, or by their periodic recurrence.?? In the examples of facts which have appeared to escape these laws, and which have come to fall into those indicated by Statistics, he cites the origin of marriages in England of which the number for a century depends on the average of salaries and of profits, instead of following the morals, the thoughts, and the sentiments common to the contracting parties. He cites the murderers, of which the number, and even the instruments of the crime, are in constant proportion to the population; he adds that even the suicides are among them. In these examples, one does not see the circumstances, [12] as in the first through which Statistics shows the parallel progress; in the example of the marriages, there is a certain connection: the same salaries, the same profits of the individuals which, by matching them, lead to the marriages.

The law is natural, self-explanatory, and even though this law of marriages was found accidentally, it could have been found in the Statistics of the average salaries and profits, since the idea of a relationship between these and the marriages was natural enough.

But since the Statistics of the yearly murders and suicides were found among several peoples, and their constant proportion to the known population, we still find nothing there which bears the trace of a relationship with the laws of the history of these peoples.

These two examples have been unfruitful in providing support for Buckle's system in the research of the laws of history that he expects from Statistics, and yet the facts he considers are not without relationship to morals, and consequently, to history.

He cites other examples of which the causes are unknown; among others, the letters thrown into the mailbox without addresses, of which the number is proportional each year to the total number of letters. Here the example is not a happy one; there is not a law which determines the number of letters without addresses other than the thoughtlessness of those who write the letters; or one can easily believe that in twice as many correspondents there is twice as much thoughtlessness. It has been a long time since a supposition of the same nature was made for the troops, where one hopes to find two times as many young people of a certain size in twice as many recruits, and in recent times there has been in France some alteration in this proportionality; it has not been researched among them the cause of a change in the physiological laws of the generation; this alteration has been related to a change in the habits of hygiene, nutrition, and exercise to which these young people are subject[9].

Here appears one of the difficulties of Buckle's system which attempts, the components of Statistics being given, to date back the effects to the causes, which is to say to distinguish, among the many causes which have an effect on history, those which have produced the effect presented by Statistics.

Nonetheless these difficulties did nothing to stop Buckle, and he hopes, [13] with the help of Statistics, that in one hundred years the regularity of the moral world or the laws of history will be established.

But do these laws of history exist, as we have already asked? And effectively, in the century where we have seen the appearance of steam ships, railways, electric telegraphs, photography and electromagnetism and so many other scientific feats; in a century where we sought so much progress which has had and will have so much influence on the future of humanity, is this not a peculiar time to expect immutable laws of history, statistical facts which would result by themselves from all the changes which are going to take place?

I have expanded a little bit on Buckle's system, because he offers a curious interpretation of Statistics, even though it appears to me to be chimerical, or at least a very rare success in the consequence that he hopes to elicit from it for history.


Paris, 27 March 1869. [14]

[1] "Ampere," by Babinet, Revue des Deux-Mondes, 1857, 15 April, p. 841.

[2] Eulogy of Montesquieu, by d'Alembert.

[3] P. 382 of the Report.

[4] Regarding the table of Mr. Baudoin I have made another representative in its form, according to information sent to me, of the progressive increase in the number of students showing in that way the approval, by the fathers of the families, of the suppression of the dead languages.

[5] Systeme du monde [System of the world] by Laplace, 3rd edition, p. 332.

[6] Systeme du monde [System of the world] by Laplace, p. 334.

[7] Systeme du monde [System of the world] by Laplace, 3rd edition, p. 367.

[8] Monuments des peoples indigenes de l'Amerique [Monuments of the indigenous peoples of America], by A. Humboldt, p. 225.

[9] Treatise of Mr. Broca, on the supposed degeneracy of the French population.-- Revue des cours scientifiques [Review of scientific currents] by Mr. Young and Mr. Algavi, 20 April 1867.

-- Edward Tufte

MINARD'S SOURCES --From Virginia Tufte and Dawn Finley, August 7, 2002.

Books Probably Used by Minard on Napoleon in Russia

Thiers. It looks like Chiers but is actually Thiers. He is Marie-Louis-Joseph-Adolphe Thiers (1797-1877), historian, lawyer, journalist, head of the French government for about a year, 1870-71. Minard most likely refers to: Thiers' 20-volume Histoire du Consulat et de l'Empire (c. 1862). A five-volume English translation has the following information on the title page: History of the Consulate and the Empire of France under Napoleon by M. Adolphe Thiers, Late Prime Minister of France; Member of the French Academy, and of the Institute, etc. etc. etc., Author of "The History of the French Revolution." Translated by D. Forbes Campbell and H. W. Herbert. With notes and additions. vol. IV. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co. 1864. We have volume IV from the UCLA library.

Ségur. You said you have this information. We have his books in French and English from the UCLA library if you need more. He is Général Cte Philippe-Paul De Ségur (1753-1830), an aide-de-camp to Napoleon whom Napoleon promoted to brigadier-general at the beginning of the Russian campaign. Minard most likely refers to Ségur's La Campagne de Russie, Mémoires d'un Aide de Camp de L'Empereur Napoléon I, first published in 1824 in two volumes and in many later editions. An English translation is Napoleon's Russian Campaign by Count Philippe-Paul de Ségur, translated from the French by J. David Townsend, with a new introduction by Peter Gay. Published by TIME, Inc., 1965. Peter Gay points out that Ségur is "a chief source" for historians of the Russian campaign as well as the source of "at least four memorable incidents" in Tolstoy's War and Peace.

Fezensac. He is Raimond-Emery-Philippe-Josephe de Montesquiou, Duke of Fezensac (1784-1867), who participated in many military campaigns including that of Napoleon in Russia, retiring as a lieutenant general. Minard would have had access to Fezensac's Journal de la campagne de Russie en 1812, a small book first published in 1849, as well as to Fezensac's book of 1863, Souvenirs militaires, concerning his military career from 1807 to 1814. We have from the USC library an English translation: The Russian Campaign, 1812, by M. de Fezensac, translated by Lee Kennett, University of Georgia Press, Athens, 1970. Fezensac's final paragraph (Kennett's translation) gives a rounded estimate of the number of casualties, then finishes with these thoughts: "History offers no other example of such a disaster, and this journal can give but a feeble idea of its extent; but at least I have written enough to preserve the memory of the events which I witnessed, some of which are little known. Of those who read what I have written I ask only that they share the emotions which I feel as I conclude this account: I ask them to join me in admiration for so much courage and sorrow for so much misfortune" (page 128). Besides Kennett's translation from the USC library, we also have Fezensac's Souvenires militaires de 1804 a 1814, in its fourth edition published in 1870, from 1870.

Chambray. He is Georges, marquis de Chambray (1783-1848). Minard might have used Chambray's two-volume anonymous Histoire de l'expedition de Russie. Par M***. Avec un atlas, un plan de la bataille de la Moskwa, et une vue du passage du Niémen. [With an atlas, a plan of the battle of Moscow, and a view of the passage of the Niemen]. Paris, Pillet ainé, 1823. [Paris, Pillet the elder, 1823]. We have these volumes from the UCLA library. He has many tables of information and numbers; he goes through the entire campaign in a play-by-play fashion similar to that of Thiers. The only sources he cites are the letters of Napoleon and others which he quotes in full in the notes. According to Paul Britten Austin, "Chambray was an artillery officer. He would be the campaign's first objective historian." (See Austin's book, 1812, The March on Moscow (London, 1993), p.372.

Jacob. He is Pierre-Irénée Jacob (1782-1855), pharmacist to Napoleon's army during the Russian campaign. His journal is published in sections in the Revue d'Histoire de la Pharmacie, t. XVIII, numbers 189-191, 1966; the journal indicates that it had not been previously published. We have a xeroxed copy of the journal and the introduction. In number 188, Pierre Julien's long introduction to the journal, gives biographical information and context. It is unclear how Minard read the journal. Since Jacob's interests were very broad, it is possible that he and Minard may have been acquainted. According to Pierre Julien's introduction, "Jacob does not have military heart at all. . . . The war is a horror to him" (page 17). Jacob writes "the men who are not with the army to kill others and who still preserve some feelings of humanity very often have to groan and to divert the sight of the hideous tableaux which are presented to their eyes" (page 17 of Julien's introduction). Jacob tells grim tales of finding dead men in the snow, crossing at least a section of the Beresina with his suitcase on his shoulder and his body in the water, eating horses, walking with no hat, no scarf, and no gloves through the blizzard.


from Dawn Finley, 7 August 2002

Adolphe Thiers (1797-1877)

Marie-Louis-Joseph-Adolphe Thiers is something of a grand homme. Several biographies of him written in the twentieth century have titles like Thiers and His Century. He was a prolific historian--the History in its five-volume English translation gives a month-by-month record of Napoleon's rule, and the original French edition comes in twenty burly tomes. Early in his career he penned an equally thorough though not quite so extensive History of the French Revolution (c. 1828). Additionally, he was a lawyer and journalist, and a very important politician.

France's government continually endured upheaval and revolution throughout the nineteenth century; after Napoleon's fall, the country really fell to pieces. Thiers was a local public official in Aix-en-Provence, elected to the French Academy and the Academy of Science. Later he supported Louis-Philippe during the revolution of 1830, and served as a kind of right-hand man to the head of state. The next revolution came around 1848, and Thiers tried to support the death of monarchy with the candidate for presidency, Louis-Napoleon (Napoleon Bonaparte's nephew). Unfortunately, such glamorous power as the French monarchy enjoyed was hard to give up, and Louis-Napoleon declared himself emperor, to the deepest disappointment of Thiers and many others. After the fall of the Second Empire in late 1870, Thiers became head of the French government for about a year. He is often credited with getting the country back on its feet.

Minard would most likely have consulted Thier's Histoire du Consulat et de l'Empire (c. 1862), which sealed his reputation as the country's historian. It appears to have been a work without maps or other extensive illustrations. We have consulted the following edition of the work from the UCLA library (citation information from title page): History of the Consulate and the Empire of France under Napoleon, by M. Adolphe Thiers, Late Prime Minister of France; Member of the French Academy, and of the Institute, etc. etc. etc., Author of "The History of the French Revolution." Translated by D. Forbes Campbell and H. W. Herbert. With notes and additions. vol. IV. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co. 1864.

Thiers gives a great deal of information about the details of various battles, the "attitude" of Napoleon when he stepped down from his horse or spoke to a general or official, and the condition of the army, as in the following tidbit about November 20, 1812: "The weather, although still very cold, had suddenly become less severe than it had been; but the change afforded no alleviation to the sufferings of the army, for the moisture which succeeded the snow and ice rendered the cold more penetrating, whilst it was almost impossible to drag the gun-carriages through the half-frozen mud" (page 243). He also gives rather impressive analysis of some of Napoleon's less brilliant military decisions.

Minard would have gained information painted in broad nineteenth-century brushstrokes from Thiers about not just what happened during the Russian campaign, but why the expedition was a failure: "Such were the facts that had transpired since the departure of Napoleon, and which we have already related; disastrous events, due to distance, to cold, to want, to the destruction of all authority, and especially to that contagious tendency to fall out of the ranks, which, beginning with the calvary without horses, and the infantry without guns, had daily increased, until at last it had become a sort of pestilential malady with which the grand army had become immediately affected, and had perished without having saved it" (page 294).

The History is impressive and intimidating as is the portrait of Thiers himself which appears on several websites about him. Our ever-meticulous Minard probably learned a great deal from reading it.

Count Philippe-Paul de Ségur (1753-1830)

Since you indicated you have information on him already, we'll be brief: General Ségur was promoted by Napoleon to brigadier-general from aide-de-camp at the start of the Russian campaign. La Campagne de Russie, Mémoires d'un Aide de Camp de L'Empereur Napoléon I (1824), would have been Minard's source. The first edition was two volumes, but many later editions were also published, of variable size. Several English translations also exist. The one we found is translated by J. David Townsend, with an introduction by Peter Gay, published by TIME, Inc., in 1965.

Raimond Emery Philippe Joseph, duc de Montesquiou-Fezensac (1784-1867)

The Duke of Fezensac was a member of a family with long and deep military history, and was a relatively young man when he set out with Napoleon for Russia, especially in comparison with his colleagues.

The volume we consulted in connection with Fezensac is a 1970 translation of his Journal de la campagne de Russie en 1812, which was published originally in 1849: M. de Fezensac, The Russian Campaign, 1812. translated by Lee Kennett. Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 1970. Minard might also have consulted the expanded Souvenirs militaires, published in 1863 and giving his entire military experience from 1804 to 1814.

Fezensac was not a cartographer, but a military officer. He made it during this campaign into the elite circle of Napoleon's military advisors, so he was a witness to the ups and devastating downs of the whole affair. At the end of this volume, his journal, there are a few appendices reproduced in translation from the first edition. These give a "Table containing the Enumeration and Disposition of the Forces led into the Russian Empire by Napoleon," a brief description of Moscow and the Russians, an "Exact Account of the Losses of the Fourth Regiment," and an "Itinerary of the Third Corps during the Retreat."

There are two maps on the inside cover of the English edition, but they are credited to no one in particular. They describe the invasion and the retreat to and from Moscow, but they have a curiously contemporary aura. On his map of Napoleon's march, Minard writes "Carte de Fezensac," which may refer to a map, but may also refer to one of the tables in the appendices of this volume.

Most of the body of the journal describes in detail the retreat of the army from Moscow. Fezensac's final paragraph gives a rounded estimate of the number of casualties, then finishes with these thoughts: "History offers no other example of such a disaster, and this journal can give but a feeble idea of its extent; but at least I have written enough to preserve the memory of the events which I witnessed, some of which are little known. Of those who read what I have written I ask only that they share the emotions which I feel as I conclude this account: I ask them to join me in admiration for so much courage and sorrow for so much misfortune" (page 128).

The first edition of Fezensac's Journal is available on microfilm from the Center for Research Libraries in Chicago; no one seems to have the hard copy. The fourth edition of Souvenirs militaires is available for withdrawal from storage and viewing at UCLA, but it does not have a map, either.

Georges, marquis de Chambray (1783-1848)

We don't have a great deal of biographical information about Chambray, and his texts are proving somewhat elusive as well.

We located these volumes: Histoire de l'expédition de Russie. Par M***. Avec un atlas, un plan de la bataille de la Moskwa, et une vue du passage du Niémen. Paris, Pillet ainé, 1823. 2 volumes.

The atlas mentioned in the title has apparently been cut out of this set. The original edition is located at Yale (they also have a microfilm copy), and there are also copies at Stanford and UC Santa Barbara. Franklin and Marshall College, in Pennsylvania, apparently has an edition of just 5 maps, the atlas independent of the surrounding text.

These volumes also contain many tables full of information and numbers relevant to Minard's task, which he most likely would have consulted.

Pierre-Irénée Jacob (1782-1855)

Jacob, pharmacist to the Army during the Russian campaign and others, kept a personal diary of his adventures, the only formal publication of which seems to have been in the Revue d'Histoire de la Pharmacie, a French journal on the history of pharmacy. The work appeared serially, with little editing, in the 1966 volume (March, June, September, and December). Pierre Julien writes in his introduction to Jacob's journal: "Until the end of his life, in any case, Jacob kept an attachment to his journal: two of the 'synopses' which he drew up of his campaigns are projected on the back of a death announcement of 1854--the same year which preceded his death" (page 6). Though Julien includes a great deal of information about Jacob and his life, there is no mention of any published copy of the work. It's hard to say how Minard had access to it, though he may very well have met Jacob personally at some time or another (Jacob's interests were apparently very broad).

Unfortunately, in May 1812, Jacob got a promotion in the army. He had asked quite frankly for one, since other younger officers were being promoted and he remained at the same post. This new one, however, sent him on a terrifying course from France to Germany to Russia and back again. His service ended in 1814, and he spent most of the rest of his career as a bureaucrat in France.

According to Julien's introduction: "Jacob does not have military heart at all. . . . If Jacob were made military pharmacist, it is, one can think, by necessity or chance" (page 17). He goes on to say: "The war is a horror to him. He says it or proclaims it on many occasions throughout his journal. As he writes in an addition to his notebook, 'the men who are not with the army to kill others and who still preserve some feelings of humanity have to very often groan and to divert the sight of the hideous tableaux which are presented to their eyes'" (page 17).

Jacob tells grim tales of finding dead men in the snow, crossing at least a section of the Beresina with his suitcase on his shoulder and his body in the water, eating horses, walking with no hat, no scarf, and no gloves through the blizzard. He was most definitely not a military man. Before the retreat, he found an abandoned copy of Rousseau's Confessions on the side of the road and picked it up to read in his spare time. The journal is interesting, if sometimes a bit tedious, reading. The Revue also includes copies of drawings done by Jacob himself--one is a drawing of Copernicus (1807, pl. viii).

-- Edward Tufte

Minard's figurative map of Hannibal's war

Charles Joseph Minard's last graphic, published when he was 88, shows two military campaigns: (1) Hannibal's march from Spain to Italy some 2200 years ago and (2) Napoleon's invasion of Russia in 1812. Both maps are shown on page 176 of my book The Visual Display of Quantitative Information

Here is an English translation (by Dawn Finley) of Minard's map of Hannibal's campaign:

Books Probably Used by Minard for Hannibal Map

Minard names two sources: "Polybe" and "Larosa."

Polybe. Polybe is Polybius, Greek historian, c. 204 B.C. to 122 B.C. See Encyclopedia Britannica for brief biography. He is said to have written forty history books of which five are extant, to have been a student of military affairs, and to have traveled the European world, including the areas where Hannibal's march took place. He is the only source contemporary with events pertaining to Hannibal. He is quoted as having said "There are...two ways of improvement, to wit by one's own disasters or those of others; the former is the more vivid, the latter is the less harmful. Therefore, one should never willingly choose the former, since the improvement which it brings is fraught with great danger and pain, but one should always pursue the latter, since in it one can discern the better way without hurt" (Encyclopedia Britannica entry on Polybius by Alexander W. Mair, vol. 18, 1942). Polybius is also quoted with reference to Hannibal "But to speak the truth of him, or of any person engaged in public affairs, is not easy" (from Polybius' "The Character of Hannibal," in The Histories, Book IX, chapters 22-26).

Larosa. After extensive searching for "Larosa," we have miraculously found "Larauza," whom we believe Minard is referring to. He is Jean-Louis Larauza, author of Histoire critique du passage des Alpes par Annibal, dans laquelle on détermine la route qu'il suivit depuis les frontières d'Espagne jusqu'à Turin, par feu M. J.-L. Larauza. [Critical history of the crossing of the Alps by Hannibal, in which is determined the route that he followed from the frontiers of Spain to Turin, by the late M. J.-L. Larauza]. Paris: Dondey-Dupré père et fils, 1826. [Paris: Dondey-Dupré father and sons, 1826]. 222 pages and map, 21 c. This book is listed in the catalogs of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, the Bodleian Library, and the Widener Library at Harvard.

--Dawn Finley and Virginia Tufte.

-- Edward Tufte

E.T.'s commentary on M. Minard's famous map of Napoleon's campaign in Russia states six variables are plotted. I only count five: Size of the army, location of the army, direction of the army's movement, temperatures and dates they were taken during the retreat.

Does E.T. count "location" as two variables - the north-south axis and then the east-west?

What am I missing here?

Finally, I believe M. Minard could have improved his justly famous map by including the sites of major battles. In reading about this campaign, I learned Napoleon had lost approximately one-third of his army before he fought his first major battle at Borodino.

Marking the major battles with the classic crossed sabres symbol and the name of the action would add greatly to the utility of the map. There is ample room for this addition with no loss to the overall presentation.

-- Fred Hollister (email)

Six dimensions

The latitude and longitude of the French army's location count as 2 of the 6 dimensions.

There's an entire chapter that discusses Napoleon's March and then deploys that map to illustrate
the principles of analytical design in my book Beautiful Evidence.

-- Edward Tufte

Privacy Policy