II.7 TextArc Visualization of “The History of Science”

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W. Bradford Paley

Interaction designer W. Bradford Paley approached making a map of science indirectly by creating a map of four out of five volumes of A History of Science by Henry Smith Williams. The first two volumes are organized in a strictly chronological fashion, so as the book wraps around the right side of the ellipse, it is organized as a timeline. The next two volumes distinguish two major domains—making two timelines—for more recent scientific exploration: the physical sciences (along the bottom left) and the life sciences (top left). Since the scattered words are pulled toward the places where they are used in the text (see the map itself for a better description of the layout), a particular structure emerges: names of individuals appear along the outside, as they are usually mentioned in only one or two places, and concepts that are common to science of all eras (e.g., system, theory, experiment) are pulled to the center, as they are mentioned everywhere. Even more fascinating, subjects that provide the main focus for certain areas are neither near the specific edges nor the general center, but in a local, topical band between the two: e.g., mind, knowledge, and conception during the philosophic beginnings of science; moon, Earth, sun, and stars somewhat later; electricity, light, and forces in the recent physical sciences; and animals, disease, development, and brain in the recent life sciences.


Williams, Henry Smith. 1904. A History of Science. New York: HarperCollins.

Paley, W. Bradford. 2002. TextArc. Accessed June 10, 2008. http://textarc.org.

Paley, W. Bradford. 2006. TextArc Visualization of The History of Science. Courtesy of W. Bradford Paley. In “2nd Iteration (2006): The Power of Reference Systems,” Places & Spaces: Mapping Science, edited by Katy Börner and Deborah
MacPherson. http://scimaps.org.

Acknowledgements: This exhibit is supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. IIS-0238261, CHE-0524661, IIS-0534909 and IIS-0715303, the James S. McDonnell Foundation; Thomson Reuters; the Cyberinfrastructure for Network Science Center, University Information Technology Services, and the School of Library and Information Science, all three at Indiana University. Some of the data used to generate the science maps is from the Web of Science by Thomson Reuters and Scopus by Elsevier. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.