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100 Diagrams That Changed the World: From the Earliest Cave Paintings to the Innovation of the iPod

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  297 ratings  ·  41 reviews
A collection of the most important ideas, theories, and concepts of all time

100 Diagrams That Changed the World is a fascinating collection of the most significant plans, sketches, drawings, and illustrations that have influenced and shaped the way we think about the world. From primitive cave paintings to Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man to the complicated DNA helix dr
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published October 30th 2012 by Plume Books
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Average rating 3.72  · 
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 ·  297 ratings  ·  41 reviews

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Start your review of 100 Diagrams That Changed the World: From the Earliest Cave Paintings to the Innovation of the iPod
Well... "Diagrams" might not fit for all 100. Also, "That Changed the World" doesn't fit for all 100. All in all, though: not a bad book.

This was the first book of diagrams (or anything remotely like it) that we read for the Jordabecker Book Club. Fuzzy - the guy who picked it - is an artist, so he was (as usual) thinking outside the box.

(He's got some good stuff. You should check it out.)

...Wait a second... I can basically force you to check it out:

vase with world

It was worth it. I know you feel the same way.
Rob Slaven
Apr 10, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
As is the usual preamble, I received this book as part of a GoodReads giveaway.

For most purposes this rather brief tome is serviceable as a coffee table book. Each entry is given one page devoted to the diagram with a half page of text to describe it. In general the author does a good job of choosing his topics and while most are already familiar to any individual of average erudition there are some new tidbits to be gleaned. As a book to be read from cover to cover it does become somewhat daun
Ray Duncan
Aug 21, 2013 rated it it was ok
Bought this book based on a mention by Maria on Brainpickings. Not particularly impressed with it. Most of the diagrams did not "change the world." Many have no any historical significance except as curiosities, such as the medieval manuscript written in as-yet-undeciphered code. The writing is uninteresting. I'd pass on this. Get Tufte's first book -- "The Visual Display of Quantitative Information" -- if you want a captivating book about diagrams and graphics. ...more
Mar 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Information design and Impact?
This book was MEANT for me.
And I indeed loved it.
Was also easy to read, as it came in 100 small and independent chunks.
Katherine Collins
Apr 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
If you are a history buff, you will like this book. If you are a visual learner, you will like this book. If you are both, you will LOVE this book. It is exactly what the title implies, 100 miniessays centered around diagrams that had mega-impact. Each one is fascinating in its own right, and when lined up all together there is another layer of insight: you can see some ways in which our visualization of new ideas has shifted over the centuries, and, importantly, how in many other ways, the powe ...more
Mar 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Taken me a while to finish, but loved it - ESP those that are purely innovations in visual display, not secondary, like the first bar chart and the history map and Florence Nightingale's rose chart and my fav Taccola's first exploded view. Loved Micrographia and by innovation the first bacteria; really so much in here! But gee, could have been double in size. Type is smaller than the Times and captions done in light grey. Double size images would be better too. ...more
Jan 10, 2014 rated it liked it
Lovely illustrations and concise descriptions - almost too concise. I could have used more explanation for some of the more complicated concepts. I'm not sure about the selection of some of the items - does a relief sculpture really count as a "diagram"? Does an atlas of London really count as having changed the world? ...more
Jan 31, 2013 rated it it was ok
The diagrams are great, the writing is not.
Jun 20, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: math
This book is a mess. First of all, 100 Diagrams That Changed the World is a misleading title. It seems like Scott Christianson meant something more like 100 Important Things and more often than not the "diagram" he included (if it even can properly be called a diagram) was not what changed the world.
For example:
1. Ancient architectural columns
2. Musical notation
3. Acupuncture
4. The Rosetta Stone
5. Dante's Divine Comedy
6. Newton's Optics
7. The machine gun
8. Darwin's theory of evoluton (Christians
Robert Koslowsky
Aug 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
One Hundred Diagrams is my kind of “synopsis,” a book that features 100 diagrams that aided in the evolution of both our culture and our technology. I resonated with Scott Christianson’s summaries as they touch on two of the three themes I explored in my 2004 work, A World Perspective through 21st Century Eyes.

These two themes included society's cultural evolution through the centuries and our first steps in the technological evolution of the most recent decades. Like me, Christianson covers an
Jul 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Not just for history buffs, the pages of 100 Diagrams prove that great achievements have humble, human beginings, often etched out by hand with a series of simple shapes. The drawings range widely in beauty, whimsy and mathematical precision. Christianson aptly illustrates where art and science have served as catalysts for each other throughout history, and he does it through telling the stories of the individuals involved. He also includes the big-picture implications of what these diagrams mea ...more
Lauren W
May 30, 2017 rated it liked it
Many other reviews have said what I'll say. I'm not sure all of these diagrams have changed the world, there are some that have and others that are just important from a historical context. I enjoyed the quick description of each of the diagrams but found myself wanting more and wanting a better grasp of the bigger picture. ...more
Mar 17, 2018 rated it liked it
I don't know if these diagrams changed the world, bu this is an interesting book about diagrams that are meaningful in history. The book is an enjoyable read, and I learned a lot from reading it. The book also provided impetus to look into further into the diagrams in the book. ...more
Andy Gagnon
Jan 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is an engineer's dream and a reminder that sketching something on paper is a powerful tool. ...more
Oliver Bogler
May 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Cool book that lends itself to a quick read for that odd moment in your day. Of particular interest to visual learners who like diagrams.
Nov 13, 2013 rated it it was ok
I expected to like this book a lot more than I did. The premise is interesting, as is much of the content. But there was a lot in this book that could have been better.

First, the font. Each diagram has a one or two sentence introduction. The font is in light gray, making it very difficult to read without much brighter lighting than I usually require. It's almost as if the publisher doesn't expect the reader to read the semi-hidden text.

Second, I'd say some of these diagrams didn't really change
As an Infographic nut I love this wonderful little book, Scott Christianson's 100 Diagrams That Changed the World . Each diagram includes a photo or reproduction starting with the Cave Drawings done 30,000 years ago in France all the way to a diagram of the iPod. In between you'd be quite surprised to learn that the first bar chart was created by William Playfair in 1786 (or at least I was). Or that the first exploded view diagram was created by Mariano Taccola way back around 1450.

I was very
Cynthia Corral
Dec 29, 2013 rated it liked it
I was really disappointed in this book and just can't give it more than 3 stars.
My review is basically what everyone else is saying:

First, a great many of these "diagrams" did little to nothing to change the world. 100 "most interesting" diagrams might have been a better title.

Second, not enough information about each "diagram". I liked the concept of two pages for each subject: one for the picture, one for information. But the information pages were not always very informational. Each page cont
May 22, 2015 rated it liked it
A good review of the development of modern society and scientific thought via influential diagrams. The chosen figures were indeed powerful and immensely thought-provoking (the human history!), but in my opinion the book had a great opportunity to make an even more powerful statement but fell a bit short due to vague descriptions and poor (miniscule) typefacing. Curt, iffy English also abounded: "a smaller part of [the Rosetta Stone's] lower right corner was missing, so some of the carved text h ...more
Dec 17, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2012
Big thanks to Bryan for buying this book I saw in NYC. The illustrations are great and they lead to lots of good thinking about the connections in history, the march of technology, etc. Very cool for that, and learned some good stuff (bikes were only invented 20 years before the automobile, and not until AFTER the Civil War. Amazing)

But the writing is very odd. Just seems kinda translated poorly, and cribbed from a variety of sources. Still glad I read it.
Feb 13, 2016 rated it liked it
Fun take on a history book. It was difficult to read this straight through, but would be very enjoyable as something to leaf through casually or read over a period of a few weeks.

Reading in that manner, the essays are perfect in size, not too much information to bog the reader down, but enough to give them a quick understanding of the diagram or drawing on the opposite page.

My favorites were probably the flushable toilet, the machine gun, and probably the musical notation. Good stuff.
Really fun. Diagrams of pivotal inventions throughout history. Some will surprise, the choices are arbitrary after all. We found ourselves laughing out loud and showing each other pages. It gets you thinking about the amazing inventions around us and the creativity we take for granted. The epitome coffee table book; I think it would be a great conversation starter.
Mr. V.
Feb 23, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: december-2012
Enjoyable to flip through and examine what choices were included here. Brought back lots of memories of images in textbooks in school that I never understood. Writing amounts to museum text panels, sometimes a little too dense. Great resource to have on hand and great intro to major developments in science through the ages.
Jan 08, 2014 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: no one, though I wouldn't try to talk someone out of it
Shelves: information, history
This book trades depth for breadth. Somehow, it doesn't even have breadth, however. I feel like one would need 250 Diagrams that Changed the World in order to justify the lack of detail on each one. I got the feeling that a lot was missing in scope, and also in detail.

That said, I realized that I was secretly enjoying it. Might I suggest putting it by the toilet?
Nov 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Won this book from Goodreads giveaway. It was delivered quickly and I started looking through it right away.

Love this book. It's beautiful and interesting. I really recommend getting a copy! Great coffee table book.
Kimberlee Kimura
May 04, 2013 rated it liked it
good to be reminded of some truly mind-blowing diagrams (London Underground map, anyone?) but not as amazing a book overall as I expected (maybe not the book's problem - perhaps I should just never expect amazing from the outset...?) ...more
Each page shows a diagram and a short few paragraphs about why that diagram is significant. There were diagrams of Stick Navigation Charts from 2000 BC to acupuncture points from China in 300 BC to an Aztec calendar to a diagram of a slave ship to sewing patterns to subway maps.
Lisa G
Apr 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is an interesting collection of diagrams -- charts, maps and representations -- that affected how people thought and what they knew. It's a different take on the historical significance of things, and it provides interesting background on the inception and application of a variety of items. ...more
Sep 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
good little mini history lesson wrapped up in important diagrams!
Nov 02, 2012 marked it as to-read
I won this book for free through Goodreads First Reads. Looking forward to reading it. Thank you.
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