Andrew Romano in Newsweek:
Late last week, President Barack Obama announced that he would be appointing a gentleman named Edward Tufte to the independent panel that advises the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board (i.e., the team of inspectors general who track how stimulus funds are spent). It wasn't a particularly sexy announcement; no thrill went up Chris Matthews's leg or anything. But in its own quiet way, the news was heartening for anyone who believes that government can and should communicate more clearly with the American people—especially when it comes to the much derided (and misunderstood) Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
Among fans, Tufte is known as “the Da Vinci of Data.” After receiving a B.A. and M.S. in statistics from Stanford and a Ph.D. in political science from Yale, the Beverly Hills native launched his academic career by signing on to teach courses in political economy and data analysis at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of International Affairs. Over time, he became increasingly interested in information design—charts, graphs, diagrams—and in 1982 he took out a second mortgage on his home in order to self-publish his first book on the subject, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. It redefined the field and was later named one of Amazon's 100 best books of the century.