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: Joseph Marie Jacquard

Controlling a machine by data

The Jacquard loom weaves patterns specified by punched cards.

1817: Leopold Gmelin

Organizing the chemical universe

Leopold Gmelin publishes his handbook of organic chemicals.

1802: Thomas Young

Systematizing color

Thomas Young formalizes the idea of three components to color.


1830s: Geological Periods

The main geological periods are identified and named.

1839: George Bradshaw

Timetables of transport

George Bradshaw publishes the first train timetables

1830: Charles Babbage

Printing mathematical tables by machine

Babbage constructed a mechanical computer to automate the creation of mathematical knowledge.

1844: Samuel Morse

Transmitting information by wire

Samuel Morse sends the first public telegraph message.

1837: General Register Office

Recording every life

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

1847: George Boole

George Boole shows how logic can be represented with algebra.

1837: Louis Daguerre

Capturing images automatically

Louis Daguerre creates the daguerreotype method of photography.

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: Paul Julius Reuter

Transmitting information on stock prices

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

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.

1852: Peter Mark Roget

Organizing English by concept

Roget's Thesaurus—first compiled in 1805—is published.

1868: The World Almanac

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

1860s: Henry Chadwick

Keeping records of sports

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

1869: Dmitri Mendeleev

A place for every kind of atom

Dmitri Mendeleev creates his periodic table of chemical elements.

1860: Robert FitzRoy

Charting and forecasting the weather

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

1872: Lord Kelvin

A machine for the tides

Lord Kelvin creates an analog computer for predicting ocean tides.

1865: Gregor Mendel

Gregor Mendel recognizes the possibility of discrete genetic traits.

1873: Frank Shepard

Shepard's Citations is introduced to organize citations to legal cases.


1876: Melvil Dewey

Classifying the world's knowledge

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

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.

1877: Thomas Edison

Recording the sound of anything

Thomas Edison invents the phonograph.

1886: Reuben H. Donnelly

A directory of every business

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

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.

1889: Giuseppe Peano

Formalizing the rules of arithmetic

Peano publishes axioms to give a complete formalization of arithmetic.

1878: Phone Directory

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

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.

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.

1898: Fred Jane

Making military information available

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

1879: John Shaw Billings

Indexing all medical literature

Index Medicus, a comprehensive index of medical scientific journal articles, is published by John Shaw Billings.

1898: Harvey Mark Thomas

The Thomas Register of American Manufacturers begins publication.

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.

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