Captain Sankey and his diagram


Sankey diagrams are named after Irish Captain Matthew Henry Phineas Riall Sankey, who used this type of diagram in 1898 in a classic figure[2] (see diagram) showing the energy efficiency of a steam engine. The original charts in black and white displayed just one type of flow (e.g. steam); using colors for different types of flows lets the diagram express additional variables.

Not bad for a deckie.


Careful Icarus. I was reading another “deckie” on this very site who said weight = mass.

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7 posts were split to a new topic: Weight and Mass

Well, that flight was a short one. Turns out "Captain Sankey:

was an Irish-born engineer and captain in the Royal Engineers,


Here’s my source - Electrify by Saul Griffith

That snip of Napoleon’s losses for the invasion of Russia is a well known exemplar of quality data graphic design. See Edward R Tufte’s books. Some time ago I was trying to reimagine what a good work package might look like which led me to Tufte. There are amazing examples of good design that are so old it makes you wonder how we ended up with “chart junk” and death by power point efforts.

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From a site listed in the book, this could be the mother of all Sankey diagrams, at least for energy:

Ah ha, now I see everything. By time you get to the end weight is no longer a force and has become mass. Because you know it doesn’t matter.

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You Sir, say “Ah ha”. I say to you: “Ha ha” on your clever word-play.

An old story isn’t it? Microsoft with it’s DOS vs Steve Jobs with his Calligraphy class? Or story behind the rewrite of The Design of Every Day Things.?

There’s a wonderful parable about this in the form of Donald Norman’s two classic engineering/design books, “The Design of Everyday Things” (1988) and “Emotional Design” (2003). In the former, Norman established a decades-long engineering ethic of subordinating form to function on the grounds that end-users deserve to have things that work as well as possible, even if that comes at the expense of aesthetics. It’s a hymn to practicality.

But in the second, after a quarter-century of watching his ideas conquer design/engineering, Norman does an absolute volte-face .

Or Pirsig?