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: 1600 - 1799


1602: Bodleian Library

The Bodleian Library in Oxford is founded with 2,000 books.

1604: A Table Alphabeticall

Organizing the English language

Robert Cawdrey publishes a dictionary with definitions for 2,543 terms.

1614: John Napier

Multiplying numbers by simple addition

John Napier publishes the first tables of logarithms.

1623: Mechanical Calculator

Wilhelm Schickard creates a gear-based, wooden, six-digit, mechanical adding machine.

1627: Rudolphine Tables

Cataloging the known universe

Johannes Kepler's Rudolphine Tables lists the positions of 1,406 stars and procedures for locating the planets.

1637: René Descartes

René Descartes introduces coordinate systems to allow geometry to be studied using algebra.


1650: Maria Cunitz

Maria Cunitz, a German astronomer, publishes Urania Propitia, which contains simplifications of Kepler's Rudolphine Tables.

1654: William Petty

Taking stock of economic activity

William Petty, traveling with Cromwell's army, systematically surveys the profitability of land in Ireland.

1659: Central England Temperature Record

Temperature every day

A record is started that continues today.

1662: John Graunt

Inventing the idea of statistics

Graunt and others start to systematically summarize demographic and economic data using statistical ideas based on mathematics.

1665: Scientific Journals

Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society begins publication.

1668: John Wilkins

John Wilkins suggests a "philosophical language" in which concepts are encoded by pronouncable phonemes.

1684: Gottfried Leibniz

Answering questions using computation

Leibniz promotes the idea of answering all human questions by converting them to a universal symbolic language, then applying logic using a machine. He also tries to organize the systematic collection of knowledge to use in such a system.

1686: Mapping the Winds

Edmond Halley creates a map showing prevailing winds at different locations.

1687: Isaac Newton

Mathematics as a basis for natural science

Newton introduces the idea that mathematical rules can be used to systematically compute the behavior of systems in nature.

1688: Joseph de la Vega

Prices in the stock market

Joseph de la Vega's book Confusion of Confusions describes fluctuations in Dutch stock market prices.


1732: Poor Richard's Almanack

Benjamin Franklin publishes the first edition of his popular yearly (1732–1758) almanac.


1750: Creating a taxonomy for life

Carl Linnaeus systematizes the classification of living organisms, introducing ideas like binomial naming.

1753: British Museum

Collecting everything in a museum

The British Museum is founded as a "universal museum" to collect every kind of object, natural and artificial.

1755: Candlestick charts

Charting market prices

Munehisa Homma uses an early candlestick chart for prices in the Japanese rice market.

1755: Johnson dictionary

Samuel Johnson publishes an English dictionary containing 42,773 words.

1768: Encyclopædia Britannica

The Encyclopædia Britannica—and the Encyclopædie of Diderot and d'Alembert—attempts to summarize all current knowledge in book form.

1785: US Land Ordinance; British Ordnance Survey

Mapping whole countries

The US (1785) and UK (1791) governments begin creating detailed systematic maps of their countries.

1786: Pie Charts, or Commercial and Political Atlas

William Playfair's Commercial and Political Atlas graphically illustrates socioeconomic dates and invents the pie chart.

1790: US Census

The first US Census is taken, as specified by the US Constitution.

1792: Farmer's Almanac

Robert Bailey Thomas begins publication of the still-extant Farmer's Almanac.

1795: The Metric System

Everything is decimal

France becomes the first nation to officially adopt the metric system of measurement.

1796: Recording data by machine

James Watt and John Southern create (but keep secret for 24 years) a device for automatically tracing variation of pressure with volume in a steam engine.

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