The history of pharmaceutical and biotech history is pretty difficult to get an overview of. Some daring visualizations would be most helpful.
Here’s a promising approach: mktlgcs has created this visualization of FDA pharma application approvals 2000-2008 — an excellent way to get an overview of the activities of the global pharmaceutical industry (all major manufacturers want an FDA approval to operate on the US market):
The big circles (Merck, GlaxoSmithCline, Wyeth, Novartis etc.) are the big players, but there are hundreds of small ones in between (FDA also approves medical devices, but it doesn’t look like the medical device industry is included into this data set.)
There is plenty of room for further work along these lines. It would be great to add a dynamic feature to this kind of visualization, for example, make the circles expand and diminish over time, somewhat like Hans Rosling is doing with his dazzling dynamic epidemiological statistics. This would also be a nice way to display the dramatic merger&acquisitions pattern in the pharma industry and the rise of many new small pharma/biotech actors over time.