Michael Friendly and Daniel J. Denis have put together an excellent timeline of what they call “milestones” in data visualization.
It is an excellent reference to see both the bursts of innovation as well as the constant creation and trying of new designs for the last 700 years. In the first part of “Designing with Data”, I cover some of the history, not as far back as this chart, but rather the ground work for our current tool set we use for charts and graphs today.
The timeline is using the Simile Timeline widget. Which makes it very easy for anyone to add these sorts of timelines to their own website.
As you scroll through the timeline you can easily see the slow progression of ideas. From taking census data, to tables, to charts. It goes to show that we are always building on previous work. Having a strong grasp and understanding of the basics is important to push this field to the next level.