Bicentenary of the birth of Florence Nightingale
May 12, 2020 - Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, was born 200 years ago. Her approach to caring for wounded soldiers and training nurses in the 19th century saved and improved countless lives. Today, as countries around the world struggle to find ways to battle the coronavirus pandemic, her ideas on health care and good hygiene resonate as strongly as ever.
Florence was born to a wealthy English family on May 12, 1820, in Florence, Italy, and named after the city. She became famous as a result of her innovations in nursing care at Scutari hospital in modern-day Istanbul, where she treated British soldiers wounded in the Crimean War, in which British, French and Ottoman forces fought the Russian Empire.
Every night she would make rounds through the camps, checking on each soldier, a practice that saw her nicknamed the “Lady with the Lamp”.
In a filthy hospital set up in a barracks on the Asian shore of the Bosphorus, she saw thousands of soldiers die from infectious diseases rather than their wounds, prompting her to try and improve conditions.
As a child, Nightingale excelled in mathematics and science, and her father introduced her to a leading practitioner of statistics, then a new academic field. During and after the Crimean War, Nightingale used statistics as a way of proving the effectiveness of different interventions.
She produced her famous “rose” diagrams, which demonstrated the high proportion of deaths caused by disease as opposed to battle wounds. As a result of this work, she became the first woman admitted to the London Statistical Society, in 1858.
By the time Florence Nightingale died, aged 90, in 1910, a revolution in health care had taken place.