December 6, 2023

A short story about the inventor of the infographic

But Playfair remained unlucky. Soon talk of his company stopped, as had happened in London a few years before. So he looked for a new job. This time he focused on real estate trading. However, it was a rather stormy business model that he was involved in: Playfair was supposed to sell land in Paris to people wishing to emigrate for an American company. The problem was that the company didn’t actually own the land yet, it only had right of first refusal on three million acres on Ohio’s Scioto River.

Then the French Revolution broke out in July 1789. Politically and socially, no stone was left unturned. Initially, Playfair saw this as an opportunity to sell the land because he assumed that many people now wanted to leave France. But the project ended in disaster. Whether Playfair also embezzled funds has not been conclusively clarified, but financially the land purchase turned into a disaster for many French colonists. Some of them even returned to France after learning that the Scioto Company did not yet possess the promised land. The U.S. government later compensated some of the settlers, but overall the project was a disaster—and Playfair was caught in the middle. His reputation has been ruined.

He didn’t find his happiness in entrepreneurship after that either. On the contrary: Playfair was soon spending time in prison and in debt towers. Then he left Paris. When he returned to London, he presented a plan to the British government in 1793. Playfair had the idea of ​​printing millions of so-called allotments in order to destroy the French economy.

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The debt mountain grew when the new chart saw the light

Assignat was the name of paper money during the French Revolution. These bonds were actually intended to serve as a type of government bond to reduce the terrible national debt. The revolutionary government distributed it to lenders with the indication that it would be covered by the future sale of church property confiscated at the beginning of the revolution. Over time, concessions became a means of payment. Now the French monarchists exiled in Britain came up with the idea of ​​circulating false appointments in order to provoke a financial crisis in Paris. It’s unclear how deeply Playfair is involved in implementing this plan, statistics professor David Bellhouse said In his book The Defective Genius of William Playfair: The Story of the Father of Statistical Graphics.