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I am looking for famous, historical, beautiful, impressive, or otherwise noteworthy visualizations based on statistical concepts.

I think of examples along the lines of Florence Nightingale's diagram:

enter image description here

but also "impressive" visualizations of key statistical concepts, such as more special ways to present something like

That is, I think of something like a sister thread to Most famous statisticians or Famous statistical quotations.

Please post one example per answer and provide explanations to (a) support the claim of "famous" or "impressive" and (b) explain why the graphics deserve that reputation.


marked as duplicate by gung, whuber Jun 1 '17 at 16:10

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    $\begingroup$ I am concerned about the breadth and subjectivity of this question. If this thread accumulates answers that are nothing more than images or links, it will not fit within our framework and will have to be closed. I am hopeful that respondents will provide explanations that (a) support the claim of "famous" or "impressive" and (b) explain why the graphics deserve that reputation. $\endgroup$ – whuber Jun 1 '17 at 14:15
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, indeed. That is why I expected it to be made community wiki. Or is that not the idea of CW? $\endgroup$ – Christoph Hanck Jun 1 '17 at 14:17
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    $\begingroup$ are you familiar with the "data is beautiful" subreddit? reddit.com/r/dataisbeautiful/top/?sort=top&t=all There might be some things here that are of interest. Maybe not so much based on statistical concepts, but it's at least a large collection of figures that people found interesting $\endgroup$ – jld Jun 1 '17 at 14:28
  • $\begingroup$ CW is not intended as a mechanism to permit off-topic, poor, or overly broad questions. It is for good, focused questions that are expected not to have uniquely best answers. $\endgroup$ – whuber Jun 1 '17 at 15:15
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    $\begingroup$ The two questions you linked to, Christoph, reflect the site back when it started in 2010. Its standards have been refined somewhat since then--and we no longer have such an acute need to attract large numbers of visitors with softball list-of-stuff questions like those. But I'm not denying the potential interest and value of this question, provided it encourages answers that fit with the aims and structure of the site. $\endgroup$ – whuber Jun 1 '17 at 16:12

Charles Joseph Minrad's https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Joseph_Minard famous map presenting Napoleon's rather catastrophic russian campaign in 1812:

enter image description here

The map shows multiple variables at once, most clear the (diminishing!) number of troops, and where and when they retreated or simply vanished, but also temperature (the below part of the map) and time.

Edward Tufte https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Tufte said about this map that it

may well be the best statistical graphic ever drawn

see E Tufte: "The Visual Display of Quantitative Information" p. 40. so it certainly belongs in this thread!

  • $\begingroup$ The original post was also from Tufte's book. $\endgroup$ – Michael Chernick Jun 1 '17 at 14:55

I'll put up a non-traditional answer: Feynman Diagrams (i.e. not statistical, but definately data related).

Feynman Diagrams are a tool for organizing computations in field theories in physics.

Two Electrons

Feynman first invented them to organize terms in computations in quantum electrodynamics (QED) (so the "data" being organized here are the terms in a very difficult computation). They are a combinatorial device used to encode all the ways in which certain events can occur in QED, or more formally, all the terms appearing in a mathematical expansion for the probability amplitude of an event.

They way they organized the data occurring in these computations allowed Feynman to show that QED did not produce infinite probabilities, an achievement called renormalization, for which he won a Nobel prize. Two other men, Julian Schwinger and Sin-Itiro Tomonaga, also won a Nobel for the same achievement, but it is Feynman's techniques, aided by his diagrams, that have stood the test of time.

A famous example is the Penguin Diagram

Penguin Diagram

which were invented when physicists were discovering that some very natural symmetries did not hold in nature (parity and charge conjugation).

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    $\begingroup$ I would be interested in even a brief account of how a Feynman diagram is "data related." I understand it to be a shorthand for a term in a perturbation expansion of an integral, subject to a physical interpretation, but have never seen any way in which it could be interpreted as describing data. $\endgroup$ – whuber Jun 1 '17 at 16:14
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    $\begingroup$ To me, that is data related. It's not data as a statistician thinks of data, but certainly is as a mathematician would think of data (the data are the terms in the perturbation expansion, which need to be organized and understood). I figured some people's opinions would differ on this point, but I think this answer is in the good spirit of this community wiki. $\endgroup$ – Matthew Drury Jun 1 '17 at 16:26

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