History of Visualization

Visualization, in the presentation sense, is not a new phenomenon. It has been used in maps, scientific drawings, and data plots for over a thousand years. Examples of this are the map of China (1137 a.d.) and the famous map of Napoleon's invasion of Russia in 1812, by Jacque Minard. Most of the concepts learned in devising these images carry over in a straight forward manner to computer visualization and can be incorporated in courses in visualization. Edward Tufte has written two excellent books [TUFT83] and [TUFT90] which explain many of these principles.

Computer Graphics has from its beginning been used to study scientific problems. However, in its early days the lack of graphics power often limited its usefulness. The recent emphasis on visualization started in 1987 with the special issue of Computer Graphics, [MCCO87], on Visualization in Scientific Computing. Since then there have been several conferences and workshops, co-sponsored by the IEEE and ACM SIGGRAPH, devoted to the general topic,[VISU90], and special areas in the field, for example volume visualization[COMP90]. There have also been numerous books and research articles on visualization in the past several years.

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Last modified on February 11, 1999, G. Scott Owen, owen@siggraph.org