Timeline of Systematic Data and the Development of Computable Knowledge

How civilization has systematized more and more areas of knowledge, collected the data associated with them and made them amenable to automation and computation
Timeline of Systematic Data and the Development of Computable Knowledge: 0 BC - 1599


78: Pliny

The world's knowledge, with references

Pliny creates an encyclopedia that claims to summarize all knowledge with references to its sources.

80: Pedanius Dioscorides

Cataloging medicinal substances

Pedanius Dioscorides produces De Materia Medica as a pharmacopeia covering herbal and other medicines.

105: Tsai Lun

Recording knowledge in bulk

Tsai Lun invents paper in China.

125: Philo of Byblos

Arranging words

Philo of Byblos compiles a dictionary of synonyms and makes the earliest known thesaurus.

150: Ptolemy

Formulas for the heavens

Ptolemy's Almagest introduces epicycles to describe the detailed motion of planets.

200: Galen

Classifying the body

Galen organizes anatomy and physiology, defining many terms and concepts used today.

340: Codices

Making knowledge browseable

Bound, book-like codices replace scrolls.


530: Justinian

The Corpus Juris Civilis codifying Roman law is produced.

550: Literary Monasticism

Preserving written knowledge

Cassiodorus founds a monastery devoted to copying, preserving, and translating classic texts, initiating the tradition of literary monasticism.

825: Hindu-Arabic Numerals

Writing numbers using decimal digits

Decimal place-value notation from India appears in Persian mathematician al-Khwarizmi's book on mathematical algorithms.

960: Song Dynasty Banknotes

The Song Dynasty introduces the use of paper money in China.


1030: Guido d'Arezzo

A notation for music

Guido d'Arezzo invents musical stave notation.

1086: Domesday Book

William the Conqueror orders a detailed accounting of the land and livestock in England.

1098: Lingua Ignota

Hildegard of Bingen's creation of Lingua Ignota may be considered one of the earliest constructed languages, which used an alphabet of 23 letters.

1202: Leonardo Fibonacci

Fibonacci's Liber Abaci introduces Hindu-Arabic numerals in Europe.

1230: Hugh of St Cher

Indexing textual knowledge

Hugh of St Cher and a team of 500 other monks create a concordance of The Bible.


1300: Ramon Llull

Creating knowledge by combinations

Ramon Llull promotes a scheme for systematically creating knowledge from formal combinations of ideas.

1350: Nicole Oresme

Making pictures of data

French philosopher Nicole Oresme introduces the notion of drawing graphs of values.

1403: Yongle

Collecting the knowledge of a civilization

The Yongle Encyclopedia, assembled by 2,000 scholars, fills over 11,000 volumes with the collected knowledge of Chinese civilization.

1450: Vatican Library

The papal archives become the Vatican Library, which is still operating today.

1453: Johannes Gutenberg

Mass distribution of knowledge

Moveable type makes it economical to print many kinds of documents.

1538: Parish Records

Recording life's events

Parishes in England keep weekly records of all christenings, marriages, and burials.

1582: Gregorian Calendar

Pope Gregory XIII establishes the modern calendar, changing the leap year rule for years divisible by 100.

1595: Symbolic algebra

Franciscus Vieta writes mathematical formulas with letters as variables, using vowels for unknowns and consonants for parameters.

SEE ALSO: Stephen Wolfram's Blog Post: The Advance of the Data Civilization: A Timeline »