Edward Tufte bigraphy, stories - American statistician and Professor Emeritus of statistics, information design, interface design and political economy

Edward Tufte : biography

1942 -

Edward Rolf Tufte ( born 1942) is an American statistician and professor emeritus of political science, statistics, and computer science at Yale University., Yale University: Political Science webpage. He is noted for his writings on information design and as a pioneer in the field of data visualization.


Edward Rolf Tufte was born in 1942 in Kansas City, Missouri, to Virginia Tufte and Edward E. Tufte. He grew up in Beverly Hills, California, and graduated from Beverly Hills High School.Reynolds, Christopher. , Los Angeles Times, November 14, 2002. Accessed April 23, 2008. "[Edward Tufte], who shares in Cheshire, Conn., with his wife, graphic design professor Inge Druckrey, and three golden retrievers, is a 1960 graduate of Beverly Hills High School." He received a BS and MS in statistics from Stanford University and a PhD in political science from Yale. His dissertation, completed in 1968, was entitled The Civil Rights Movement and Its Opposition. He was then hired by Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School, where he taught courses in political economy and data analysis while publishing three quantitatively inclined political science books.

In 1975, while at Princeton, Tufte was asked to teach a statistics course to a group of journalists who were visiting the school to study economics. He developed a set of readings and lectures on statistical graphics, which he further developed in joint seminars he subsequently taught with renowned statistician John Tukey (a pioneer in the field of information design). These course materials became the foundation for his first book on information design, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information..

After difficult negotiations with mainline publishers failed, Tufte decided to self-publish Visual Display in 1982 where he worked closely with graphic designer Howard Gralla. He financed the work by taking out a second mortgage on his home. The book quickly became a commercial success and secured his transition from political scientist to information expert.

On March 5, 2010, President Barack Obama appointed Tufte to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act's Recovery Independent Advisory Panel "to provide transparency in the use of Recovery-related funds.".


Tufte is an expert in the presentation of informational graphics such as charts and diagrams, and is a fellow of the American Statistical Association. Tufte has held fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences.

His work habits are forward-looking and he is intensely critical in the self-editing process. Tufte pulls in and casts out ideas from books, journals, posters, auction catalogs, and other less common source genres. He invites others to critique his work in progress and may nurture dozens of ideas over months in various states of growth and fruition. He deletes almost every photograph he takes. Over time, he deletes most of what he writes on his own forum, ET Notebooks. Every printing of every book corrects numerous small blemishes, ranging from color registration to kerning and hinting.

This pattern of work is repeated in Tufte's sculpture, where he digs through sources ranging from other art, other genres (most notably Feynman diagrams), to flea markets, nuclear power plants, and fields of grass. He is in search of forms and ideas from which to build up into models, table pieces, and occasionally larger landscape pieces. Even some nominally finished, large scale works are reworked heavily. But at the same time, some random sculptural equivalents of brush strokes or artifacts of a piece's former life are retained, a degree of wabi-sabi, as may be seen in Rocket Science (circa 2006–9, Hogpen Hill, Connecticut).

Information design

Visual Explanations, Tufte's third book in a series on information display Tufte's writing is important in such fields as information design and visual literacy, which deal with the visual communication of information. He coined the term "chartjunk" to refer to useless, non-informative, or information-obscuring elements of quantitative information displays. Other key concepts of Tufte are the lie factor, the data-ink ratio, and the data density of a graphic.

Living octopus

Living octopus

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