Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale, Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-5877

           Florence Nightingale was born in Italy on May 12, 1820. Her parents, William and Frances Nightingale were very wealthy and spent their time traveling Europe.  After Florence’s birth, the family moved back to England.  Florence’s interest in math and medicine began in her childhood.  She was educated at home, and spent her free time cataloging her possessions.    

           In 1845, Florence informed her family that she wished to become a nurse.  Her parents were angered by her decision and sent her to travel Europe with family friends, in hopes that she would forget about nursing.  After a year abroad, she was able to convince her parents to let her study at a hospital in Germany.  In 1853, she became the Superintendent of the Establishment for Gentlewomen during illness, in London.

           A year later, in 1854, Florence was recruited by the Secretary of War, Sidney Herbert, to join the efforts of the Crimean War.  She and 28 other nurses were sent to Turkey.  In Turkey, Florence implemented sanitary reform, which dropped the death rates from 42% to 2%.  During this time, Florence also invented the polar-area chart.

           Angered by the death she saw in Turkey, Florence issued a report, Notes on Matters Affecting the Health of the British Army, in 1858 to the Royal Commission.  She also set up a nursing school in London in 1859, where sanitary practices were taught.  During the Civil War, the Union Army contacted Florence to help with field medicine.  Her recommendations led to the forming of the United States Sanitary Commission.

           Florence also worked with several American doctors and nurses, training them in her practice.  In 1869, she and Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman to receive her medical degree in the United States, opened the Women’s Medical College.  Florence also worked with Linda Richards, who became known as “America’s first trained nurse”.

           For her efforts, Florence was awarded the Royal Red Cross by Queen Victoria in 1883.  However, by 1896, Florence fell ill and was forced to spend her time in bed.  During this time, she wrote extensively about hospital planning.  She died on August 13, 1910.


Additional Resources:

  • http://www.florence-nightingale.co.uk/cms/
  • http://www.agnesscott.edu/Lriddle/WOMEN/nitegale.htm