Tuesday, December 09, 2008


Otto Neurath was born on December 10, 1882; he has the distinction of being my favorite logical positivist. Part of the reason is that Neurath, unlike most philosophers of science in the twentieth century, actually did some genuinely good and lasting work improving science education.

One of his most influential inventions was Isotype, the International System of TYpographic Picture Education, originally called the 'Vienna Method', which he developed with the artist Gerd Arntz. Isotype became the backbone of all those international picture-language signs that you see everywhere.

* Basic by Isotype, by Otto Neurath. This website just has sample pages; Neurath furthered the potential of Isotype by combining it with Ogden's Basic English.

* International Picture Language, by Otto Neurath

* Visual Education: A New Language, by Otto Neurath

* Speaking Signs: Otto Neurath's Viennese Method of Visual Education, by Frank Hartmann

* "Society and Economy": An Atlas in Otto Neurath's Pictorial Statistics from 1930 (PDF), by Sybilla Nikolow

* Isotype - speaking signs: gives the background to isotype

* Isotype Institute: lots of samples of Isotype; they also have an old source article called, From Hieroglyphics to Isotype

* Gerd Arntz's Isotype symbols

* Otto Neurath's Universal Silhouettes from Cabinet Magazine

* The Simplest Expression of an Object, at "Austin Kleon", is a blog post discussing some of Neurath's underlying principles (focusing on the principle of reduction).

* A blog post at "The Science Project" discussing Isotype-based science books for children.

In addition to Isotype, Neurath did work with museums; it seems that it was actually out of his work with museums (for a short while he was Director of the Museum of War Economy in Leipzig, and created a Museum of Society and Economy that existed for almost a decade) that his work in pictorial communication first began to develop. Managing Museum Work in Austria (PDF), by Hadwig Kraeutler, discusses some of Neurath's work in museum theory.

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