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: 1800 - 1899


1801: Controlling a machine with data

Joseph Marie Jacquard creates the Jacquard loom, which weaves patterns specified by punched cards.

1802: Color theory

Systematizing color

Thomas Young formalizes the idea of three components to color.

1817: Organization of the chemical universe

Leopold Gmelin publishes his handbook of organic chemicals.


1830s: Geological Periods

The main geological periods are identified and named.

1830: Difference engine

Printing mathematical tables by machine

Charles Babbage constructs a machanical computer to automate the creation of mathematical knowledge.

1837: General Register Office

Recording every life

Births and deaths begin to be systematically recorded by the UK government.

1837: Birth of photography

Capturing images automatically

Louis Daguerre creates the daguerreotype method of photography.

1839: First train timetable

George Bradshaw publishes the first train timetables.

1842: Ada Lovelace

First computer programmer

Ada Lovelace publishes the world's first algorithm for machine computing.

1844: Samuel Morse

Transmitting information by wire

Samuel Morse sends the first public telegraph message.

1847: George Boole

George Boole shows how logic can be represented with algebra.

1849: Who's Who

The first edition of Who's Who, which compiled biographical information on royals, members of Parliament, and others, is published.


1850: Transmitting information on stock prices

Paul Julius Reuter uses pigeons to fly stock prices between Aachen and Brussels.

1850: Florence Nightingale

Visualizing statistical data

Florence Nightingale pioneers the graphical representation of statistics and invents the polar area diagram, also known as the Nightingale rose diagram.

1852: Roget's Thesaurus

First compiled in 1805, Peter Mark Roget's Roget's Thesaurus is published.

1860s: Henry Chadwick

Keeping records of sports

Henry Chadwick begins to keep systematic records of player achievements in baseball.

1860: Charting and forecasting the weather

Robert FitzRoy uses a network of telegraph stations to assemble systematic charts and make forecasts of British weather.

1865: Gregor Mendel

Gregor Mendel recognizes the possibility of discrete genetic traits.

1867: Stock Ticker

The market on a tickertape

Edward Calahan invents a telegraph-like system to transmit every price change from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

1868: The World Almanac

The New York World publishes the first edition of The World Almanac.

1869: The periodic table

Dmitri Mendeleev creates his periodic table of chemical elements.

1872: A machine for the tides

Lord Kelvin creates an analog computer for predicting ocean tides.

1873: Shepard's Citations

Frank Shepard's Shepard's Citations is introduced to organize references to legal cases.


1876: The Dewey Decimal System

Classifying the world's knowledge

Melvil Dewey invented the Dewey Decimal System for classifying the world's knowledge and specifying how to organize books in libraries.

1877: Invention of the phonograph

Recording the sound of anything

Thomas Edison invents the phonograph.

1878: US Public Health Service

Recording disease

By an act of US Congress, collection of data on notifiable diseases by the Public Health Services begins.

1878: Phone Directory

The first phone directory is issued, listing 50 subscribers in New Haven, Connecticut.

1879: Gottlob Frege

Axiomatizing knowledge through logic

Frege created a formal system and language in which mathematical and other knowledge could be represented in terms of an extended form of logic.

1879: Index Medicus

Indexing all medical literature

John Shaw Billings publishes Index Medicus, a comprehensive index of medical scientific journal articles.

1880s: Oxford English Dictionary

Collecting every word in English

With extensive information supplied by a network of volunteers, the OED is a systematic project to get complete knowledge of all the words in the English language.

1881: The Harvard Computers

Processing astronomical data

A group of women who processed astronomical data by measuring the brightness, positions and colors of stars develops the Harvard classification scheme for stellar classification.

1882: United States Geological Survey

Mapping the rocks of America

The US Geological Survey is authorized by Congress to create a geological map of the entire US.

1886: First printed "Yellow Pages"

A directory of every business

Reuben H. Donnelly prints the first "Yellow Pages" business directory.

1888: International Phonetic Alphabet

Systematization of sounds across languages allowed for extensive linguistic study on various qualities of speech, including phones, phonemes, intonation and separation of words and syllables.

1889: Giuseppe Peano

Formalizing the rules of arithmetic

Peano publishes axioms to give a complete formalization of arithmetic.

1890: Herman Hollerith

Automating the census with punched cards

Hollerith puts all the data from the US Census onto punched cards, which can then be tabulated automatically. The company he started is an ancestor of IBM.

1898: Fred Jane

Making military information available

Fred Jane collecting worldwide data and publishes Jane's All the World's Fighting Ships.

1898: Thomas Register of American Manufactures

Harvey Mark Thomas begins publication of the Thomas Register of American Manufactures.

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