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Priestley’s Timelines

New Chart of History 1769, Library Company of Philadelphia

This project is a collaboration with Daniel Rosenberg, University of Oregon Professor of History. Together we are transforming Joseph Priestley’s Chart of Biography (1765) and New Chart of History (1769) into interactive infographics. Priestley, a prominent scientist and theologian created what are arguably the first modern timelines, and New Chart of History is one of the most influential artifacts not only in historiography but also in the history of infographic design.

By creating digital versions of the charts, using a data driven process, we seek to 1) facilitate interactive exploration of the charts, 2) analyze Priestley’s methods of infographic design in themselves and in relation to modern graphic techniques, and 3) investigate the assumptions Priestley made about the world when he created the charts.

For related work on this project, please see:

Rosenberg, D. “Joseph Priestley and the Graphic Invention of Modern Time.” Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture, vol. 36 no. 1, 2007, pp. 55-103. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/sec.2007.0013

Rosenberg, D., Grafton, A. Cartographies of time: A History of the Timeline. 2010 New York: Princeton Architectural Press.

To see more historical tools for visualizing time, presented in interactive digital formats, visit