While we may think of infographics as a relatively recent development to make sense of the immense amount of data available on the Web, they actually are rooted in the 19th century.
Two major developments led to a breakthrough in infographics: advances in lithography and chromolithography, which made it possible to experiment with different types of visual representations, and the availability of vast amounts of data, including from the American Census as well as natural scientists, who faced heaps of information about the natural world, such as daily readings of wind, rainfall, and temperature spanning decades.
But such data was really only useful to the extent that it could be rendered in visual form. And this is why innovation in cartography and graphic visualization mattered so greatly...
Via Lauren Moss