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William Playfair Invents the Pie Chart

Playfair piechart

Pie chart from Playfair's Statistical Breviary (1801), showing the proportions of the Turkish Empire located in Asia, Europe and Africa before 1789.

In 1801 Scottish engineer and political economist William Playfair published in London The Statistical Breviary; Shewing, on a Principle Entirely New, the Resources of Every State and Kingdom in Europe; Illustrated with Stained Copper-Plate Charts, Representing the Physical Powers of Each Distinct Nation with Ease and Perspicuity. To which is added, a Similar Exhibition of the Ruling Powers of Hindoostan. In this work Playfair invented the pie chart. It has also been suggested that Playfair, often short of funds, may have colored the charts in all the copies himself—the process he characterized as "staining" in the title.

Playfair, The Commercial and Political Atlas and Statistical 
, Edited and Introduced by Howard Wainer and Ian Spence (2005). This edition reproduces in color the third edition of the atlas (1801) and the first edition of the breviary (1801).

(This entry was last revised on 02-04-2015.)

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