The importance of data visualisation is explored in the British Library’s first science exhibition, Beautiful Science: Picturing Data, Inspiring Insight

  • Beautiful Science runs from 20 February to 26 May 2014

In an age of rapidly advancing technologies Beautiful Science, opening tomorrow in The Folio Society Gallery at the British Library, shows that the challenge of presenting big data in innovative ways is not a new one. From 17th century illustrated diagrams to contemporary interactive visualisations, the exhibition explores how advances in science alongside changes in technology have allowed us to visually interpret masses of information.

Beautiful Science, sponsored by Winton Capital Management, explores the work of scientists and statisticians through the ages using the Library’s own vast science collections together with new and exciting technology, focusing on three key themes – public health, weather and evolution.

From an early visual representation of a hierarchically ordered universe in Robert Fludd’s ‘Great Chain of Being’ (1617) and Florence Nightingale’s seminal ‘rose diagram’ (1858), which showed that significantly more Crimean War deaths were caused by poor hospital conditions than battlefield wounds, to a contemporary moving infographic of ocean currents from NASA, this exhibition shows how visualising data has changed the way we see, interpret and understand the world around us.

Dr Johanna Kieniewicz, lead curator of Beautiful Science, says: “The British Library is home to the nation’s science collection and we’re thrilled to be opening up our fantastic collections in the Library’s first science exhibition. As big data is becoming a topic of such huge interest, we particularly wanted to show the important connections between the past and the present. Data that is centuries old from collections like ours is now being used to inform cutting edge science. We’re also delighted to include video interviews with leading experts, Dame Sally Davies, UK Chief Medical Officer, Sir Nigel Shadbolt, chairman and co-founder of the Open Data Institute, David McCandless, data-journalist and designer, and David Spiegelhalter, Winton Professor for the Public Understanding of Risk at Cambridge University.”

Following the success of last year’s Inspiring Science season, the exhibition is accompanied by a range of events including Festival of the Spoken Nerd: I Chart the Library, Seeing is Believing: Picturing the Nation’s Health with Sally Davies and David Spiegelhalter, Knowledge is Beautiful with David McCandless and a Family Discovery Day.

More press images can be found here. / #BeautifulScience


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Notes to Editors

Beautiful Science: Picturing Data, Inspiring Insight is generously sponsored by Winton Capital Management.

The exhibition is on the display in The Folio Society Gallery at the British Library and is FREE.

Exhibition opening hours
Monday – Thursday 9.30 – 20.00, Friday 9.30 – 18.00, Saturday 9.30 – 17.00, Sunday and Bank Holidays 11.00 – 17.00

The full list of Beautiful Science events can be found on our What’s On website.

Visualising Research is a new competition launched last month by the Library for designers, graphic artists, software developers and programmers. Sponsored by the AHRC and BBSRC, the competition challenges entrants to bring public data to life with a brand new info graphic.

Winton Capital Management (
is one of the largest alternative investment managers in the world, and a leader in financial mathematics and empirical scientific research into financial markets. Winton was founded by David Harding in 1997 with an absolute commitment to employing advanced mathematical, statistical and computational techniques to develop systematic, quantitative, trading strategies for global futures and equity markets, a belief which still remains at its very core. Its unique company culture has fostered a first-class environment where innovative ideas can flourish and robust research is highly rewarded. The company now employs over 280 people, including 130 scientific researchers with PhDs and Masters Degrees, at specialist campuses in Oxford, London, Zurich and Hong Kong.

The Folio Society was founded in 1947 to create exceptional editions of the world’s greatest books through the highest standards of printing, binding, typography and illustration. Over sixty years on, its aim remains the same - to publish reasonably priced books that will stand the test of time, in handsome, imaginatively designed and beautifully crafted editions. The Folio Society publishes beautifully illustrated, cloth-bound editions of a wide range of classic science books relevant to the exhibition. Highlights include:

  • On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin, introduced by Richard Keynes, bound in buckram, printed and blocked with a design by David Eccles, £39.95
  • ‘Surely you’re joking Mr Feynman’ by Richard Feynman, introduced by Brian Cox, drawings by Aude van Ryn, bound in buckram, £34.95
  • Relativity by Albert Einstein, introduced by Robert Penrose, £24.95
  • Taming the Infinite by Ian Stewart, introduced by Matt Parker, bound in cloth, blocked with a design by Stuart Daly, £34.95
  • In Search of Schrödingers Cat by John Gribbin, new afterword by the author, illustrated by Raymond Biesinger, bound in buckram, blocked with a design by Raymond Biesinger, £36.95
  • Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne, introduced by Margaret Drabble, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki, £36.95

Available from or by telephone on 020 7400 4200 or by visiting The Folio Society Bookshop, 44 Eagle Street, London WC1R 4FS, or from selected retail partners including the British Library.

For more information:

Evenings and weekends:
+44 (0) 20 7412 7150

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