Napoleon's March to Moscow

Charles Joseph Minard was a French civil engineer who liked to study streams and physics. Figurative maps and graphic tables were among his favorite studies. He often substituted mathematically proportioned images for dry and complicated columns of statistical data so that the first glance could “take it all in” and previously unforeseen comparisons could become apparent. The data map and time-series combination shown here was created in the last year of his life. It may be the best statistical graphic ever drawn. The map portrays the losses suffered by Napoleon’s army in the Russian campaign of 1812. The story begins at the Polish-Russian border with thick bands showing the size of the army in each position. The path of Napoleon’s retreat is depicted by the dark lower band, tied to temperature and time scales. Six variables and a dramatic series of human events are shown together in one comprehensive portrait.

Tufte, Edward R. 1983. The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. Cheshire, CT: Graphics Press.

Minard, Charles Joseph. 1869. Napoleon's March to Moscow. Courtesy of Edward Tufte, Graphics Press, Cheshire, CT. In “1st Iteration (2005): The Power of Maps,” Places & Spaces: Mapping Science, edited by Katy Börner and
Deborah MacPherson.

A total of six variables are shown in one comprehensive portrait.