Pie Charts Defined: A Guide for Businesses

Ghost-written for Large Tech Co

Posted by Michael Grover on Mar 20, 2022
Article Excerpt...
The history of pie charts is more fascinating than you might think. A secret agent who plotted the collapse of the French economy with counterfeit money and the founder of modern nursing are but two of the intriguing historical characters who used pie charts to explain and advocate. The first known pie chart was published in 1801 by Scottish engineer, political economist, and secret agent William Playfair. It showed proportions of the Turkish Empire located in Asia, Europe, and Africa prior to 1789. Playfair was no stranger to using graphics to interpret data, having invented the bar chart, area chart and line graph years before. Playfair’s pie chart merely communicated data. It was not until half a century later that famed social reformer, statistician, and founder of modern nursing Florence Nightingale used the pie chart to advocate change. Her “Diagram of the Causes of Mortality in the Army in the East” wove many layers of data into a complex pair of pie charts — really what, today, we would call polar area diagrams — to show that improvements in sanitation in camps and hospitals during the Crimean War dramatically reduced the in-hospital death rate from disease. She used this diagram for the most modern of reasons: to argue before members of Parliament, who she knew would not read the data. The consequences of her chart and efforts over the next ten years led to sewage systems being installed in all English homes. This reduced the death rate so much that life expectancy in England climbed from 40 to 60 years-old.

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