In the tradition of William Playfair and Charles Joseph Minard….
October 26th, 2005 by Tom Johnson

Ericson of the NYTimes has delivered yet again a piece of superb
infographics.  This one, sadly, illustrates the 2000+ U.S. deaths
in Iraq.  (See “Deaths in Iraq by Month” in the 26 Oct. 2005 story “
2,000 Dead: As Iraq Tours Stretch On, a Grim Mark“)

William Playfair
(1759-1823) was the
Scottish engineer and political economist who did the ground-breaking work in visual statistics.  Charles Joseph Minard, in the mid-nineteenth century, produced the classic infographic of
Napoleon's March to (and retreat from) Moscow.  Minard's great
work is notable for displaying multiple data sets on a timeline as
well as their geographical relationships.

Ericson has done something similar by showing the combat deaths in Iraq
from the March 2003 invasion until mid-Oct. 2005 as the occupation
continues.  Ericson shows not just the numbers, but the branch of
service, the locations of the deaths and the causes of death (i.e.
explosive devices, vehicle or plane crashes, etc.).

It's a brilliant piece of work that also demonstrates the added value
that very good journalists and their editors can bring to what should
be public discussion.  But this kind of work doesn't happen
overnight, nor is it cheap to do.  (Are you listening
Knight-Ridder, Gannett, et al.?)

We would only hope that someone at the Times would work to develop a
flash program/presentation that would, in a relatively automatic
mannter, constantly update this important informational display.

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