Gorgeous 1939 map of physics

I love this Map of Physics that turns an entire academic discipline into a fictional country, showing the way different sub-disciplines interact and the concepts that connect seemingly disparate discoveries.

Posted by Frank Jacobs at The Big Think, it dates to 1939. I'm not sure who or what originally made it (maybe one of you know) but it's great.

The map is more than a random representation of the different fields of physics: by displaying them as topographical elements of the same map, it hints at the unified nature of the subject. “Just like two rivers flow together, some of the largest advances in physics came when people realised that two subjects were [like] two sides of the same coin”, writes Jelmer Renema, who sent in this map.

Some examples: “[T]he joining of astronomy and mechanics […] by Kepler, Galileo and Newton (who showed that the movement of the Moon is described by the same laws as [that of] a fallling apple.” At the centre of the map, mechanics and electromagnetism merge. “Electromagnetism [itself is] a fusion between electricity and magnetism, which were joined when it was noted by Oersted that an electric current produces a magnetic field, and when it was noted by Faraday that when a magned is moved around in a wire loop, it creates a current in that loop.”

Read the rest and see some close ups of various corners of the Land of Physics at The Big Think blog

Via Ananyo Bhattacharya



  1. The fine print at at bottom centre says it was published by the Central Scientific Company.  The design is credited to Bernard H. Porter. I guess it’s a 30s version of the swag that laboratory supply companies give away today.

  2. This is a wonderful creation. The neutrality of the listings is admirable; I would have expected the importance of the scientist to be reflected in position, size or in some other graphical way; for example, one would expect MAXWELL to be this colossus bestriding electricity, magnetism and light. But that would lead to infinite invidious arguments….

  3. Neat! If this had included WWII and the immediate post-war period, it would have been interesting to somehow chart the course of someone like John von Neumann, who traveled between so many projects and thinkers.

  4. Einstein is a nice sunny spot at the end of the Astrophysics peninsular, overlooking the straits of Energy.  

  5. My father was a physicist. This exact same map is still hanging on the wall at mom’s house.

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