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Florence Nightingale


Florence Nightingale (died on 13th Aug 1910, aged 91) was a social reformer, statistician and the founder of modern nursing. She was born in England into a wealthy family and her unlike many women of her social class, was educated in several subjects including maths and writing. She travelled extensively across Europe in early adulthood, and though respectful of the social attitudes of the day, she ultimately rebelled against the expectations of her mother and sister to become a wife and mother, and announced her decision to enter nursing in 1844 after she had studied to educate herself in the art and science of nursing. She believed she had a calling from God to care for people but her outlook and attitude to her profession was secular.

In 1854, she and 38 volunteer nurses she had trained were sent to the Ottoman Empire in Turkey where Britain was fighting the Russians, by her great friend the Secretary of War, Sydney Herbert. She found the conditions there horrific, and set about reorganising the Scutari barracks in Istanbul that were housing wounded soldiers. During her first winter at Scutari, 4,077 soldiers died there and one estimate puts the reforms she made and other improvements she persuaded governments to make as reducing the death rate from 42% to 2%. She became famous for her work and this gave her lots of clout on her return to improve the training of nursing staff - she set up the Nightingale Training School at St. Thomas' Hospital in 1860 - and worked to get trained, professional nurses into the workhouses and poor-hospitals of the country.

She was also a gifted mathematician and produced the first pie-charts and has been described as "a true pioneer in the graphical representation of statistics". In 1859, Nightingale was elected the first female member of the Royal Statistical Society and in 1874 she became an honorary member of the American Statistical Association. She campaigned for compulsory sanitation in all public housing and lobbied ministers to require owners of existing properties to pay for connection to mains drainage. Though she would dislike the term feminist, she decried her mother's and older sister's lethargic lifestyle, despite their education. She rejected their life of thoughtless comfort for the world of social service.In 1890, her voice was recorded for posterity and you can hear it here:

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