The Underappreciated Man Behind the “Best Graphic Ever Produced”
He’s known for his acclaimed depiction of Napoleon’s ill-fated invasion of Russia. But Charles Minard was full of innovative visualizations.
Charles Joseph Minard’s name is synonymous with an outstanding 1869 graphic depicting the horrific loss of life that Napoleon’s army suffered in 1812 and 1813, during its invasion of Russia and subsequent retreat. The graphic (below), which is often referred to simply as “Napoleon’s March” or “the Minard graphic,” rose to its prominent position in the pantheon of data visualizations largely thanks to praise from one of the field’s modern giants, Edward Tufte. In his 1983 classic text, “The Visual Display of Quantitative Information,” Tufte declared that Napoleon’s March “may well be the best statistical graphic ever produced.”
Today Minard is revered in the data-visualization world, commonly mentioned alongside other greats such as John Snow, Florence Nightingale, and