Moscow 1812

As of the 23rd May 2022 this website is archived and will receive no further updates. was produced by the Winton programme for the public understanding of risk based in the Statistical Laboratory in the University of Cambridge. The aim was to help improve the way that uncertainty and risk are discussed in society, and show how probability and statistics can be both useful and entertaining.

Many of the animations were produced using Flash and will no longer work.

This is still a work in progress, but we thought you might be interested in these different ways the data in Charles Minard's map can be visualised. The Minard map is a beautifully clear summary of the progress of Napoleon's 1812 campaign. It depicts a broad river of men flowing eastwards, suffering continuous depletion from disease, desertion and death, with just a few surviving the disastrous retreat.

The first thing we did was to apply our Survival animation to the Grande Armee. In a normal survival curve, the hazard is taken to be the chance of dying in the following year. For the Grande Armee, we have to rescale this to the chance of dying the following day. Life was grim.

You need to install the Adobe Flash Player to see the animation.

Minard on a Google Map

Here's a reproduction of the original map. In the second tab of the animation we've also overlayed it on a Google Map image so you can see that Minard's geography was pretty accurate. He succeeded in representing both the flow of men and the main waypoints of the campaign in the same drawing. To achieve this he had to make many simplifications - ignoring some of the major troop movements (those of Jerome for example) - and perhaps more importantly ignoring the continuous reinforcements from the West with which Napoleon attempted to rescue the outcome. For comparison, take a look at the map in Adam Zamoyski's map (see reference below), which gives more details of the flow of men, but loses the geographical element.

You need to install the Adobe Flash Player to see the animation.

A Motion Chart based on the Minard Map

This is a motion chart built from Charles Minard's map data, augmented with some dates gleaned from Adam Zamoyski's book '1812, Napoleon's Fatal March on Moscow'. A bigger version is avaliable here.

There's another version of this in one of the examples in our FlowGraph animation.

Minard on Google Earth

Minard is attempting in his map to plot six variables - troop bodies, their numbers, latitude, longitude, time, and temperature. It's tempting to believe that adding a third dimension to the plot would help here. Google Earth makes it easy enough to try this out, but we'll leave you to judge whether it's an improvement or not. If you're not familiar with the details of loading kmz files into Google Earth, you'll find plenty of help on the Google Earth site.

Here it is - a 3D visualisation where troop numbers are represented by altitude. If you also load up and enable this KML file from NASA containing weather overlays for 2004/5 you can get an impression of how the snow comes to this area each year. Use the animation bar at the top of the Google Earth main window.

Image icon Minard-transparent.png683.83 KB