See a 1932 Infographic on the History of Evolution

Caitlin Schneider

David Rumsey Map Collection

Decades before the term “infographic” made its way into our lexicon, John B. Sparks created one that was not only an excellent use of the form, but covered the entirety of life on earth, including the creation of the planet itself.

Printed by Rand McNally in 1932, the nearly 5-foot “Histomap” sold for $1 and was a companion to Sparks’ map on human civilization. Its contents are emblazoned just under the title: “EARTH, LIFE AND MANKIND FOR TEN THOUSAND MILLION YEARS.”

The chart begins 10,000 million years ago with the origin of the earth and trickles down all the way to “the future” which, at the time, extended all the way to 1960.

The streams of blue, orange, yellow, green, and pale red flow together in a manner reminiscent of sand art or a Matisse cutout. And while the specific data of the graphic—much like the specific data contained in Sparks’ other Histomap—is a bit unclear, it’s still a gorgeous and awe-inspiring graphic illustrating the development of life on earth. Not to mention way ahead of the data visualization curve.

For a large, zoomable version of “The Histomap of Evolution,” visit The David Rumsey Map Collection.