Born In: Florence, Grand Duchy of Tuscany
Died On: August 13, 1910
Career: Nurse and Statistician
Florence Nightingale, ‘The Lady with the Lamp’, was an English nurse, writer and statistician. A woman with dynamic personality, Nightingale was a rebel against all the prejudices about women in England. She played a crucial role in breaking down all the male chauvinist societal codes defining the life and role of women. Her life and her achievements itself serve as a great inspiration for women or societies where women are suppressed by some unethical and biased norms. She is the lady who single handedly changed the picture of the army barrack hospital setups and brought down drastically the death toll due to war wounds and other infectious diseases. She was responsible for the establishment of the Nursing School at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London, the first secular nursing school in the world which laid the foundation of professional nursing. Follow up the lines below to learn about Florence Nightingale’s biography.
Florence Nightingale was born on the 12th of May, 1820 to a wealthy landowner, William Florence Nightingale in Florence, Italy. The name ‘Florence’ got bestowed upon her after the place of her birth. As a child Florence was very close to her father who was a Unitarian and a Whig involved in the anti-slavery movements. William treated Florence as his friend and took responsibility for her education and imparted the knowledge on Greek, Latin, French, German, Italian, history, philosophy and mathematics to Florence. Florence was a strong-willed woman who rebelled against the prejudice view about the role of a woman of her status, which was to become an obedient wife. Inspired by what she took to be a call from God in February 1837 at Embley Park, Florence made a commitment to become a nurse, a career of poor reputation.
Florence Nightingale because of her panoptic education disliked the lack of opportunity for females of her social status. She was interested in serving the poor that made her interested in looking after those who were ill. She visited many hospitals in and around the country to investigate about the possible opportunities for women there. Florence with a strong sense to care for the poor, announced her decision to enter nursing in the year 1844. She worked hard to educate herself in the art and science of nursing, fighting against all the restrictive societal code for affluent young English women.
Florence Nightingale became a leading advocate for improved medical care in the infirmaries along with Charles Villiers, president of Poor Law Board, in December 1844. This involvement by Florence further made her play an active role in reforming the poor infirmary laws. Florence visited the Lutheran religious community at Kaiserswerth-am-Rhein in the year 1850. There she observed Pastor Theodor Fliedner and the deaconesses working for the sick and the deprived. She regarded the experience as a turning point in her life, and issued her findings anonymously in 1851; The Institution of Kaiserswerth on the Rhine, for the Practical Training of Deaconesses, etc. was her first published work. In the year 1853 on 22nd August Nightingale was offered the post of Superintendent at the institute for the care of sick gentlewomen in Upper Harley Street, London, a position she held until October 1854.
The nursing career for Florence Nightingale actually began during the Crimean War, which became her central focus following the reports about the awful conditions of the ones wounded in war. On 21st October Nightingale was sent to Turkey to the main British camp, along with a staff of 38 women volunteer nurses. Then in November 1854 Nightingale and her staff arrived at Selimiye Barracks in Scutari where she and her nurses found soldiers being badly cared for by overworked medical staff. There was shortage of medicines, hygiene was being neglected and mass infections were common, many of them fatal.
These poorly maintained army medical centers did no good to control the death rates; rather the death count kept increasing. Ten times more soldiers died from illnesses such as typhus, typhoid, cholera and dysentery than from battle wounds. Nightingale found the conditions in army hospitals to be dismaying and raises voice to get the hospitals reformed. This view of Nightingale was objected by the military officers and doctors, who interpreted this step of Florence as an attack on their professionalism.
After being turned down by the military units Nightingale used her influence at The Times to report details on the treatment of the wounded soldiers by the British Army. After a great deal of publicity monitored personally by John Delane, the editor of the paper, Nightingale was handed over the task of rearranging the barrack hospitals. The British Government sent out a Sanitary Commission to Scutari in March 1855, to monitor the reformation of the barrack hospitals.
This bold step By ‘The Lady with a Lamp’ brought down the death toll drastically, from around 42% when she arrived to 2%, by making improvements in the hygiene and the sanitary conditions. This experience at Scutari influenced Florence’s later career, when she advocated sanitary living conditions to be of utmost importance.
On 29 November 1855, a public meeting, in the Crimea was held to give recognition to Florence Nightingale for her work in the war. This public meeting led to the establishment of the Nightingale Fund for the training of nurses of which Sidney Herbert served as honorary secretary of the fund, and the Duke of Cambridge was chairman. In 1857, she issued an exhaustive and confidential report on the workings of the army medical departments in the Crimea and in 1858 she published Notes on Matters affecting the Health, Efficiency and Hospital Administration of the British Army. In the same year a commission was appointed to inquire into the sanitary condition in the army. Following this an army medical college was opened at Chatham in 1859.
By this time Nightingale Fund had managed to collect enough cash to set up the ‘Nightingale Training School’ at St. Thomas’ Hospital on 9 July 1860. Nightingale wrote ‘notes on nursing’, a book that served as the cornerstone of the curriculum of many of the nursing schools. The notes got published in the year 1859. Florence Nightingale also wrote another book ‘Notes on Hospitals’ that spoke about the correlation of sanitary techniques to medical facilities. Nightingale was also involved in the formation of the East London Nursing society which came up in 1868, the Workhouse Nursing Association in the year 1874 and also the Queen’s Jubilee Nursing Institute in 1890.
Nightingale’s entire life went in serving and promoting the establishment and development of the nursing profession and modifying it with time. Her work served as an inspiration for nurses in the American Civil war. The Union government approached her for advice in organizing field medicine. All her trained nurses had a growing and influential presence in the embryonic nursing profession.
Contributions To Statistics
Florence Nightingale exhibited a gift for mathematics and excelled in the subject under the tutorship of her father. Nightingale became a pioneer in the visual way of presenting information and statistics. She used the pie chart to demonstrate the statistical graphics. After the Crimean War, she used the Polar area chart, equivalent to a modern circular histogram, to illustrate seasonal sources of patient mortality in the military field hospitals. The compilation of such diagrams was termed by Nightingale as a "coxcomb". She made extensive use of coxcombs to present reports on the nature of the conditions of medical care in the Crimean War to Members of Parliament and civil servants. Later in her life Nightingale made a detailed study on the sanitation in the Indian rural life and became the leading figure in the introduction of improved medical care and public health service in India. In 1858 Nightingale was elected the first female member of the Royal Statistical Society and she later became an honorary member of the American Statistical Association.
Contribution To Literature
Though better known for her expertise in the medical and mathematical fields, Nightingale is also an important part of the study of English feminism. The fight for feminism started for Nightingale at her own house when she was struggling with her self-definition and the expectations of an upper-class marriage from her family. While in her thought process she wrote down her suggestions for ‘Thought to searchers after Religious Truth’. However, only a part of this three-volume book ‘Cassandra’ got published in 1928. Cassandra protests the over-feminization of women into near helplessness, such as Nightingale saw in her mother and older sister’s lethargic lifestyle, despite being educated. The work also reflects Nightingale’s thoughtful step into the world of social service against all the societal and family prejudices. It also talks about her fear of her ideas being ineffective.
Rewards And Recognitions
In 1883, Nightingale was awarded the Royal Red Cross by Queen Victoria. She became the first woman to be awarded the Order of Merit in the year 1907. In 1908, she was given the Honorary Freedom of the City of London. Her birthday is now celebrated as International CFS Awareness Day. The Nightingale Pledge taken by new nurses was named in her honor.
Nightingale was solicited by politician and poet Richard Monckton Milnes, but she turned down the proposal of marriage thinking that marriage would interfere with her ability to follow her calling to nursing. She even met Sidney Herbert in Rome in 1847 who was a brilliant politician and a secretary at War. Herbert was already married, but both of them shared lifelong close friendship. Nightingale also shared a close relationship with Benjamin Jowett, who even wanted to marry her but could do little against Nightingale’s greater cause to serve the society.
Florence Nightingale took adieu from the universe leaving behind all her work and establishments as an inspiration to others on 13th August 1910, at the age of 90. She took her last breath peacefully in her sleep in her room at 10 South Street, Park Lane.
1820: Florence Nightingale was born
1844: Florence decided to become a nurse and serve the society
December 1844: Florence became the leading advocate for improved medical care
1850: Florence visited the Lutheran religious community at Kaiserswerth-am-Rhein
1853: Nightingale took the post of superintendent at Kaiserswerth-am-Rhein
1854: Nightingale and a group of 38 nurses arrived in Turkey
March 1855: A Sanitary Commission was sent to Scutari by the British Government
November 1855: A public meeting to give recognition to Florence Nightingale for her work was established.
1857: Florence issued an exhaustive and confidential report on the workings of the army medical departments in the Crimea
1858: ‘Notes on Matters affecting the Health’ got published
1858: A commission to enquire into the sanitary conditions of army was set up
1859: An army medical college was opened at Chatham
1860: Nightingale Training School at St. Thomas' Hospital was established
1868: Nightingale established the East London Nursing Society
1874: Workhouse Nursing Association was formed
1883: Nightingale was awarded the Royal Red Cross by Queen Victoria
1890: Queen's Jubilee Nursing Institute was set up
1907: Nightingale became the first woman to be awarded the Order of Merit
1908: Nightingale received Honorary Freedom of the City of London
August 1910: Florence Nightingale left for a heavenly abode
1928: Cassandra, a section from the three volume book Thought to Searchers after Religious Truth got published