Florence Nightingale (12 May 1820-13 August 1910)
Florence Nightingale was a British social reformer and statistician and the pioneer of modern nursing. She came to prominence while serving as a manager and trainer of nurses during the Crimean War, in which she organised care for wounded soldiers. She became an icon of Victorian culture, especially in the persona of “The Lady with the Lamp”, making rounds of wounded soldiers at night.
Her most persistent suitor was the politician and poet Richard Monckton but, after a nine-year courtship, she rejected him, convinced that marriage would interfere with her ability to follow her calling to nursing.
Nightingale is described as “a true pioneer in the graphical representation of statistics”, and is credited with developing a form of the pie chart now known as the polar area diagram or Nightingale rose diagram, equivalent to a modern circular histogram, to illustrate seasonal sources of patient mortality in the military field hospital she managed. Nightingale made a comprehensive statistical study of sanitation in Indian rural life and was the leading figure in the introduction of improved medical care and public health service in India.
Florence was a prodigious and versatile writer. In her lifetime, much of her published work was concerned with spreading medical knowledge. Some of her tracts were written in simple English so that they could easily be understood by those with poor literary skills.
Nightingale’s lasting contribution has been her role in founding the modern nursing profession. She set an example of compassion, commitment to patient care and diligent and thoughtful hospital administration. The Nightingale Pledge is a modified version of the Hippocratic which nurses recite at their pinning ceremony at the end of training. Created in 1893 and named after Nightingale as the founder of modern nursing, the pledge is a statement of the ethics and principles of the nursing profession.
During the current coronavirus pandemic, ExCel in London has been turned into a temporary hospital, NHS Nightingale.
[My late mother, Sarah Lamb (nee Nugent) SRN SCM, was one of many inspired by Florence Nightingale’s legacy and, at a very young age, tended the sick and wounded British and German soldiers in the Second World War. Ed.]