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A Brief History of Mind Mapping: The Tree of Porphyry

Did you know that humans have been using visual diagrams to clarify and communicate concepts for over 2,000 years? In anticipation of the MindManager 14 for Windows launch happening September 12th, we’re giving you a few lessons in mind mapping history.

First up: the Tree of Porphyry.

The Godfather of Mind Mapping

The godfather of mind mapping as we know it was arguably Porphyry of Tyre, a Greek philosopher and logician born in 234 CE and inventor of the Porphyrian tree (shown below).

The Porphyrian tree was a way to classify Aristotle’s Categories in a logical process. If you remember anything about Aristotle from Philosophy 101, it’s that he was a big fan of categorizing and classifying everything. And what better way to clearly communicate a set of complex categories than with — you guessed it — a map?

A Logical Process

Porphyry’s tree was such an effective introduction to Aristotelian Categories that by the Middle Ages, it had become a standard part of religious education. The tree starts with a main category and proceeds through each sub-category until it reaches the logical conclusion.

Sounds familiar, right? Check out a side-by-side of a Porphyrian tree and a modern-day mind map to see the similarities for yourself. We think this guy Porphyry may have been onto something…


Stay tuned for the next installment of A Brief History of Mind Mapping.

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