List of Physical Visualizations
and Related Artifacts
With tag “mechanical-interaction”

150 BC – Greek Orrery

An orrery is a mechanical model of the solar system. The left image shows the Antikythera, the oldest known orrery. The middle image shows a virtual reconstruction. The right image shows a contemporary orrery. The Antikythera mechanism is an ancient analog computer designed to predict astronomical positions and eclipses. It was recovered in 1900–01 from the Antikythera wreck, a shipwreck off the Greek island of Antikythera. The instrument was designed […]

Added by Melanie Bacou & Pierre Dragicevic. Category: Physical model. Tags: , , , , ,
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1753 – Barbeu-Dubourg’s Machine Chronologique

Before Joseph Priestley published his famous timelines, Frenchman Jacques Barbeu-Dubourg built a 16-meter long timeline showing 140 years of world history, which can be mechanically scrolled and folded for transport. Not a physical visualization but maybe the first “interactive” timeline representation in history. Seen in a talk by Catherine Plaisant. Sources: Stephen Boyd Davis (2009) The First Modern Timeline? Stephen Ferguson (1991) The 1753 Carte Chronographique by Jacques Barbeu Du Bourg. Photos […]

Added by Pierre Dragicevic. Category: Other. Tags: , ,
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1839 – Théodore Olivier’s String Models

Between 1839 and 1853 the French mathematician Théodore Olivier created string models to teach and demonstrate descriptive geometry, some of which could be manipulated. He was a student of French mathematician Gaspard Monge, who invented descriptive geometry and was already illustrating his ideas with rudimentary string models. Photo above: intersection of two cylinders. Sources: Nicholas Mee (2013) Strings, Surfaces and Physics. Photo above taken in the […]

Added by Pierre Dragicevic. Category: Physical model. Tags: , , ,
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2011 – Manually Animated Graph of Scientific Data

Philadelphia-based multi-discipline artist Bradley Litwin built this physical chart that can be animated by turning a crank. It is the only manually-animated physical visualization we know of so far. It was commissionned by a pharmaceutical company, intended as an educational device for distributing to doctors. Bradley was kind enough to send us an image of the insides of the original prototype, "not quite as pretty as the final product", […]

Added by Yvonne Jansen & Pierre Dragicevic. Category: Passive physical visualization. Tags: , ,
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