First “coined” in 1646 by Henry Hammond, data first made its appearance, however, at the time, the definition for the word was ambiguous.  Throughout history, the word data and the materials that constitute data have changed drastically.  While most define data today as numerical figures that are quantifiable and comparable to other figures; historically, the word data had a much broader meaning.  Robert Hooke, a famous scientist during the 1600s considered data to be anything that reveals something, a greater truth.  Studying small organisms using a microscope, Hooke drew images of beetles and other microorganisms, distributing these images amongst the public and creating a portfolio of his work.  In addition, Hooke included lengthy descriptions describing these creatures.  Nearly comical, Hooke personified these species using language such as “the little enraged creature”.  As unorthodox as it may have seemed at the time, these beautifully drawn pictures, as well as their lengthy descriptions were considered to be data, however, can this truly be data?  Although Hooke was a fantastic scientist and contributed greatly to the scientific community, it is hard to consider hand drawn pictures accurate data.  Although he lacked the scientific resources we have available now, Hooke’s work, although telling, was not completely accurate.  Although many scientists argue that Hooke in fact did contribute, Hooke’s lengthy descriptions reveal the great difference between today’s concept of data and Hooke’s concept of data.  Although some of the descriptions Hooke published with his works contained some, it is imperative to note that these descriptions were opinions, Hooke’s own thoughts in relation to these discoveries.  While these may be helpful, options inherently are biased; simply writing in a language and interpreting something that one sees is not necessarily how everyone else might perceive that certain object or organism.  In this sense, Hooke’s descriptions and even his drawings are not a primary source because these findings are disputable, they are secondary sources.


So what is modern data and how can it be obtained?  Modern data is something that is both quantifiable and not disputable.  In contrast with Hooke, modern data must express no bias and be as raw as possible.  Such data would include spreadsheets of numbers, graphs or charts filled with indisputable numerical data, but could not include lengthy descriptions filled with superfluous adjectives lest the meaning of these findings be skewed.  While many argue that data is in fact conceptual and should not be limited to simply numbers and graphs, the distinction between data and portrayal of truth must be discussed.  There is little debate that Hooke’s drawings of beetles and other organisms educated many people, portraying a micro world that hadn’t been previously available to common people.  However, as stated above, Hooke fails to present concrete evidence that can’t be argued against because his drawing are filled with opinions.  In addition to the descriptions, Hooke may have favored certain parts of the organism’s body unconsciously and portrayed them with greater size and detail.  While Hooke heavily contributed to the scientific community, his drawings, along with his lengthy descriptions, can’t be considered “data” in the modern sense.