'The visual representation of data has gone through a number of phases, with its goals switching back and forth between analysis and presentation over time.
The first uses of graphics to represent data, interestingly, were very bare and abstract, and at the same time were mostly tools for communication. The abstract nature of these early charts is surprising when you consider the amount of ornamentation and decoration that was common with even simple household objects in the early to middle of the 19th century.'
The article goes on to briefly describe and provide examples for the following eras of 200 years in visualization theory and practice:
- Early to Mid–1800s: Playfair, Nightingale, Snow, Minard
- 1920–30s: Neurath
- 1960–70s: Bertin and Tukey
- 1970–80s: Holmes
- 1980s: Tufte
- 2000s: INFOGRAPHICs vs. Visualization
A recommended read for anyone interested in a short history of data analysis and means of visual communication.