Stories and lessons on data visualization: Hear from Professor Michael Friendly on his research, Jan. 14


What is data visualization and how did it arise? York University psychology Professor Michael Friendly will discuss this topic on Jan. 14 when he is the next featured speaker in the Science and Technology Studies Departmental Seminar Series.

Michael Friendly
Michael Friendly

Presenting “The Rise of Visual Thinking and Graphic Communication: Some Stories and Lessons from the History of Data Visualization,” Friendly will explore some of the content from his book Data Visualization: A History of Visual Thinking and Graphic Communication (Harvard University Press, 2020).

The general theme is that graphical methods so common today arose largely in conjunction with important scientific and social questions. Most of the heroes in this history had what we call a “gleam in the mind’s eye,” an inner vision, an appreciation of the connections among numbers (data), the idea of evidence for a proposition and some sort of visual presentation as a means of drawing a conclusion or providing a demonstration.

In psychology, it might be called “visual thinking.”

The central questions are: How and why did data visualization arise? What were some key innovations? What cognitive and technological infrastructure was required? Friendly traces a small portion of this history with a selection of vignettes relating to some of his favorite heroes. He hopes to raise more questions than he can answer.

The event takes place from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Room 203, Bethune College. It is free to attend, and all are welcome. The series is presented by the Department of Science and Technology Studies, Faculty of Science.

For more information, contact the series organizer Conor Douglas by email at or visit the event page at