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GeoFacts - Minard’s Map

by Fábio Rodrigues, Cartographer, Earth in VisionThursday, September 26, 2013

Intro

Carte Figurative des partes successives en hommes de l’Armee Française dans la champagne de Russie 1812-1813, or Napoleon March on Moscow, or simply Minard’s Map it is, probably, the very first example of modern Data Visualization, featuring several variables. This map is featured in every textbook of Geovisualization.

Who was Minard

First things first, Charles Minard was a French civil engineer from the 18th and 19th century who dedicate his life to Cartography, known mostly for his information graphics works. He had created several maps and design pieces making him a person of interest on Cartography and on Data Visualization.

What’s portraying on the map

Minard portrayed the march of the French army to Moscow, Napoleon dreamt to govern all Europe, so he decided to evade Russia in order to fulfil his dream. Despite the victorious feeling that Napoleon had over the Russian, it hadn’t gone quite like he expected, in fact he lost. The Tsar Alexander, defending his territory, and despite the apparent lost battle he had a brilliant tactics, he destroyed the crops and other food stores, so the French starved. Also there was another tiny detail, despite the march over the summer they stay until December, facing low temperatures.
Out of 400 000* men just 100 000* return to France and just 10 000 arrived in France, and shocked the Napoleon’s ambition over Europe governance.

The map portrays exactly this, the march to Moscow, with each battle, and the time they took, and how many deaths occur, from the Neman River to Moscow. Also, it is portraying the temperature throughout the march.

The map portrays exactly this, the march to Moscow, with each battle, and the time they took, and how many deaths occur, from the Neman River to Moscow. Also, it is portraying the temperature throughout the march.

*Different websites and papers write different numbers, but according to the map, that was the values.

Why it's so interesting

As Kraak (2003) wrote “In all of the maps produced by Minard, the general message was much more important than the link between the data and the geography.” Also the level of complexity and accuracy was very high, and “it is seen as one of the best drawn historical graphics, includes multiple variables and has been examined by various other authors.” Even if a modern geovisualizer creates a new visualization with the Minard data, nothing new is going to be added or nothing new is going to be seen. However, Kraak and other geoviusalizers created a new visualization for this map, as told before, not to add new information, simply a new perspective.

As for the example, one of my favourite pieces is Kraak’s third dimension of Minard’s Map.


Kraak Temporal Cube

Sources:
ITC – Kraak
Russian Victory Over the French Army in 1812

Kraak, M.-J. (2003). Geovisualization illustrated. ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, 57(5-6), 390–399. doi:10.1016/S0924-2716(02)00167-3

Orginally posted on Earth Invision

About the author

Fábio Rodrigues is a Cartographer, graduated from the University of Lisbon – Portugal. He has a BSc in Geography, worked as photography assistant, was studio manager and in late 2011 he began the MSc in Geographic Information System which led to an invitation to a European Project about Cartography, Specular Cartography Project. He submitted his dissertation about the Cartography in the 20th Century, referring as well the born of Geovisualization as a scientific field. Currently, he is working on Earth in Vision Project where he wants to explain the meaning of maps and other data visualization displays to a general public.

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