One of the best arguments for approaching the history of information processing and handling in the human and natural sciences as a “history of data” is that it focuses our attention on relationships, convergences, and contingent historical developments that can be obscured following more traditional areas of focus on individual disciplines or technologies. This essay explores one such case of convergence in nineteenth-century data history between empirical natural history (paleontology and botany), bureaucratic statistics (cameralism), and contemporary historiography, arguing that the establishment of visual conventions around the presentation of temporal patterns in data involved interactions between ostensibly distinct knowledge traditions. This essay is part of a special issue entitled Histories of Data and the Database edited by Soraya de Chadarevian and Theodore M. Porter.

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