The Beauty of Diagrams

The Beauty of DiagramsSeries in which mathematician Marcus du Sautoy explores the stories behind some of the most familiar scientific diagrams.

Vitruvian Man - He looks at Leonardo da Vinci's world-famous diagram of the perfect human body, which has many layers from anatomy to architecture, and defines our species like no other drawing before or since.

The Vitruvian Man, drawn in the 1480s when he was living and working in Milan, has become one of the most famous images in the world.

Leonardo's drawings form a vast body of work, covering every imaginable subject in spectacular detail: from feet, skulls and hands to muscles and sinews; from hearts and lungs to buildings, bridges and flying machines.

Copernicus - When Polish priest and astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus developed his extraordinary theory of a sun-centered universe 500 years ago, he was flying in the face of both science and religion. Mankind had believed for thousands of years that the earth was at the center of the cosmos, and to disagree was to risk derision and accusations of heresy.

Newton's Prism - In the mid-1660s, Isaac Newton bought a pair of prisms at a fair near Cambridge, which were to be the basis of a series of experiments that would unlock a secret that had occupied scientists for centuries - the nature of light itself.

To explain what he had done, Newton created a diagram. It is called The Crucial Experiment and is a pivotal image in scientific history, a graphic moment when the ancient world was overturned by modern science. Newton demonstrated that white light is not pure, but made up of a number of different colors, the colors of the rainbow.

Florence Nightingale - Can a diagram save lives? Florence Nightingale is best known as the Lady of the Lamp, who cared for thousands of soldiers in appalling conditions during the Crimean War of 1854-6. What is less well-known is that she was a superb statistician, and the first to use a statistical graphic as a call to action.

After the war, Nightingale wrote a passionate report on why the soldiers had died in such large numbers and it revealed the astonishing fact that out of 18,000 deaths, 16,000 had been due to infectious diseases in hospital rather than battle wounds.

Watch the full documentary now (playlist)

Ratings: 8.68/10from 19 users.

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19 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Sanki King

    Everything Copernicus published was already revealed to Prophet Mohammad 1400 years ago. The whole solar system and how the planets and the universe works is mentioned in the Quran, mentioned hundreds of years ago before Copernicus.

  2. Oscar

    An over abundance of slow music and a constantly repeated opinion that it is 'so beautiful' and the art is 'so rare' and 'special' and it's such 'a special thing to see this rare piece of art'. I don't freaking care! Just give me the facts and STOP TRYING TO LULL ME TO SLEEP!

  3. Avii

    As someone has stated above, the adds are all because of Internet for those still using it should just stop using it since its obviously the worst of all browsers today, both securitywise and in functionality..

    Else, great doc...thx Vlatko

  4. azilda

    would make a good story for a movie....aliens find the diagram and try to decipher the meaning...a bit like The Gods Must Be Crazy over a coke bottle.

  5. Ramus

    There is also an application called Ad Muncher which apparently can block ads in multiple browsers including IE. Haven't used it so can't say how well it works but you might want to give it a try. Personally I just prefer to use Firefox, its unfortunate G-Chrome doesn't have add ons :(

  6. waldo

    Never mind, I fixed it. I had to reinstall flash player for this browser. I assumed since I had it for IE it would carry over to this browser as well, not so. You have to re download it and install as a plug-in for this browser. Thanks for the recommendation, this is great. No adds at all!!

  7. waldo

    Downloaded fire fox, and now I have only a blank square with no play button. I see the different segments at the bottom of the square, you know part one and so forth, but no play button. I have updated fire fox and am running the latest version. It has a spell checker that runs continuously, just like word. That's a great function, but I can't use it to view this video for some reason. Any suggestions on how to fix this issue, I would love to have a browser that blocks ads.

  8. Imightberiding

    Forgot to add that I don't think Drake or Sagan read Robert Heinlein's classic "A Stranger in a Strange Land" if they believed science & math to be universal & intergalactic. Their biggest short sight or mistake on the plaque was mixing binary numbers with Imperial measurements. ie: inches.

  9. Imightberiding

    Excellent production quality along with the excellent topic. Full of insight & information. Enjoyed seeing the original Vitruvian Man, what can be said about Leonardo da Vinci other than he was truly a Beautiful Mind. Especially liked the Space Sign Post, would love to play with it. Pink Floyd rocks! oops I meant the prisms & work of Newton. The charts on deaths due to infection in the Nightingale section were a bit hard for me to stomach. Have spent more than my share of time in Hospital due to accidents & surgeries. You never forget the smell of Hospital, I don't care what year it is. It is amazing how such a recent diagram as the double helix ( architecturally fabulous ) has become so recognizable & classic so quickly. Not to mention all the advancements & understanding in the past half century. Completely forgot about the Pioneer Plaque on Pioneer 10. The host is correct when he states that it has "a bit of a period feel to it".

    Thanks for this quality upload. No problem with adds for me at my end. I can imagine the frustration for those of you who had to deal with the same add every 5 min.

  10. terryrret

    Great show no adds on Firefox .
    Good thing I went past the first few comments or I would have missed it .

  11. Some Guy

    @ Ramus, Thank you for the information. Add block plus works wonderfully!

  12. emanuel


    Let me guess you guys are all Internet Explorers..right?

  13. Achems Razor

    Good doc, watched all no problem, good HD picture, no ads at all.

  14. Lars

    too much add.. almost makes it unwatchable

  15. Ramus

    @Leonardo & Waldo
    Use Firefox and get the Adblock Plus add on. No adverts :)

  16. Waldo

    I got it to work, must have been on my end. Facinating documentary, but I can't stand the ad every five minutes, literally. I will watch this some other way, maybe I can download it. Not only is it every five minutes, but its the same ad every five minutes. More than I can stand.

  17. Leonardo

    wow, dailymotion has reached the darkest of depths in advertising prostitution.... every 5 mins there is a mandatory ad! wow!

  18. Eyðstein

    What is the name of the wonderful song with the piano and the male choir hymn sounds?

  19. Waldo

    This link doesn't work, it says tech difficulties have prevented this stream from loading.