Fritz Kahn, Pioneer of the Infograph

Fritz Kahn (September 29, 1888 – January 14, 1968)

For thousands of years, human beings have used metaphors as ways of understanding the body. Kahn described the human body as “the most competent machine in the world”

Born in 1888, German Jewish scientist, physician, artist, and author Fritz Kahn was one of the grandfathers of modern data visualization. A pioneer of the infograph, Kahn’s writing career lasted more than 40 years. He wrote more than a dozen popular science books.

Through the use of often startling metaphors, both verbal and visual, Kahn succeeded in making complex principles of nature and technology comprehensible to a person of average education.

Responding to criticism that one of his images was incorrect, he once famously said, “Yup, it’s wrong, but it’s understandable!”

Fritz Kahn’s most famous work was the poster: Der Menschen als Industriepalast (Man as an Industrial Machine)

(English Version)

In 1933, the Nazis chased Kahn out of Germany. His books were burned, banned, and put on the “list of damaging and undesirable writing.” Fortunately, enough of his illustrations survived to show us, among other things, how the human heart could move an elevator up five floors in 40 minutes, how dessert cleans the tongue, and how Mercury is so small that it could plunge into the Atlantic Ocean without touching the continents.

Travel experiences of wandering cell: on top of the nasal conchae inside the nose’ (1924)

Entering a gland cave‚ 1924

Osteogenesis, 1924

“The biology of smelling a roast: pictorial representation of the processes that occur in a man’s head between the sensation of smell and the ‘reflectory’ salivation.” Graphic and caption from Fritz Kahn’s “Das Leben des Menschen III,” Franckh/Kosmos, Stuttgart 1926

  The Heart’s Work Performance 1936

The Architecture of Digestion, 1939

What goes on in our heads when we see a car and say “car”‘ (1939)

The seven functions of the nose, 1939

The Act of Chewing, 1939

The Mammary Gland, 1943

“Amoebas of the human body”, an illustration depticting the depths of a wound, 1943

“Vitamins”, 1952. “The functions of the vitamins and four organ systems of the human body. Organs functioning healthy are shown on the left, because they are supplied with sufficient vitamins″

The unfolding of insect wings, 1952

Jellyfish, “the beauty of polyps” 1952



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