The Origins of Bar Charting


By Patrick Weaver

Melbourne, Australia

In a series of previous papers I have looked at:

  • The origins of modern project management [1];
  • The development of scheduling [2] which traces the development of scheduling from bar charts in the mid-1800s through to modern tools and practice;
  • And debunked the myth that Henry L. Gantt developed bar charting or had anything to do with the evolution of project management or bar charts [3].

Whilst developing these papers, focused on ‘modern project management’, one of my untested observations was that the charts used by Priestly and the graphs used by Playfair in the 18th Century were advances on much older developments. They simply appeared to be too good to be original concepts. This paper looks at the origins of the concept used by both Priestly and Playfair as a starting point to develop their charts which in turn led to the development of the modern bar chart by the late 1800s.

Bar charts are in essence a stylised graph, where data in the form of a start and end point for a line (or bar) is plotted against an ‘x’ and a ‘y’ axis with the activities defined on the ‘y’ axis and time on the ‘x’ axis. These key concepts can be seen in each of the following charts:

A New Chart of History [4]: Joseph Priestley (England, 1733-1804).  The rule of ‘empires’ is plotted against geographical location and time requiring mapping and graphing concepts:

pmwj21-apr2014-Weaver-IMAGE1 CHART

A Chart of Biography [5]: Joseph Priestley (England, 1733-1804).  Some 2000 famous lifetimes plotted on a time scaled chart:


To read entire article, with footnotes & references, (click here)

About the Author

patrick weaverflag-australiaPatrick Weaver       

Melbourne, Australia

Patrick Weaver, PMP, PMI-SP, FAICD, FCIOB, is the Managing Director of Mosaic Project Services Pty Ltd, an Australian project management consultancy specialising in project control systems and a PMI Registered Education Provider.  Patrick is also the business manager of Stakeholder Management Pty Ltd. He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Building, Australasia (FCIOB) and a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (FAICD). He is a member of the PMI College of Scheduling, and the PMI Melbourne Chapter (Australia), as well a full member of AIPM, APM (UK) and the College of Performance Management.  Patrick has over 35 years experience in Project Management.  His career was initially focused on the planning and managing of construction, engineering and infrastructure projects in the UK and Australia. The last 25 years has seen his businesses and experience expand to include the successful delivery of project scheduling services and PMOs in a range of government, ICT and business environments; with a strong focus on project management training.  His consultancy work encompasses: developing and advising on project schedules, developing and presenting PM training courses, managing the development of internal project control systems for client organisations, and assisting with dispute resolution and claims management.  He is a qualified Arbitrator.  In the last few years, Patrick has sought to ‘give back’ to the industry he has participated in since leaving college through contributions to the development of the project management profession.  In addition to his committee roles he has presented papers at a wide range of project management conferences in the USA, Europe, Asia and Australia, has an on-going role with the PMOZ conference in Australia and is part of the Australian delegation to ISO TC258.  Patrick can be contacted at [email protected] or at www.mosaicprojects.com.au.

To see other works published in the PM World Journal by Patrick Weaver, visit his author showcase at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/patrick-weaver/