Celebrating Women in Science

Today, we salute and celebrate #WomenInScience! In this spirit, we remember Florence Nightingale, who pioneered the field of modern nursing through her dedication, commitment and endeavor.

Florence Nightingale was a British nurse, a statistician and a social reformer who lived in the early 19th century. Born to a wealthy family in Italy in 1820, she is considered a pioneer and the founder of modern nursing. Known as ‘the lady with the lamp’ due to her night rounds to patients, her compassion, thorough record-keeping and information graphics were revolutionary for her time, and made substantial contributions to health statistics and healthcare as a whole.

Florence Nightingale pursued nursing academically, which she considered to be her calling, despite her family forbidding her to do so and the social expectations of the Victorian Era. During her work in London in the 1850s, she worked through a cholera outbreak, where she noticed that unsanitary conditions contributed to the rapid spread of the disease. Her improving of the hygiene practices significantly lowered the death rate at the hospital. Nightingale organized and oversaw the nursing of wounded soldiers during the Crimean war. Through improving the horrid, unsanitary conditions that led numerous soldiers dying more from infectious diseases such as cholera, typhoid and dysentery, rather than battle injuries, Nightingale reduced the hospital’s death rate by two-thirds. She also improved the quality of the patients’ stay in the hospital by providing special dietary requirements, establishing a laundry and a library. Her book, ‘Notes on Matters Affecting the Health, Efficiency and Hospital Administration of the British Army’, based on her experiences in Crimea, proposed reforms for other military hospitals and sparked a restructure of the War Office’s administrative department.

Soon after the war, Nightingale was rewarded for her work by Queen Victoria, and with her support, she helped create a Royal Commission into the health of the army. Along with leading statisticians, Nightingale’s work and ability to translate raw data into visual formats, made complicated data accessible and understandable by all, setting new standards for sanitation and healthcare, and influencing the direction of medical epidemiology.

Florence Nightingale established the St. Thomas Hospital and the Nightingale Home and Training School for Nurses with the money she was awarded from the British government. She became the first female member of the Royal Statistical Society in 1858 and was named an honorary member of the American Statistical Association. Additionally, she was one of the first recipients of the Royal Red Cross in 1883 and the first woman to be awarded the Order of Merit in 1908. She continued working and advocating for health care reform even after her own health problems, which left her bedridden. Florence Nightingale devoted her life to nursing and caring for her patients. Every year, International Nurses Day is celebrated on her birthday, May 12.

Compiled using information from:

  • History, ‘Florence Nightingale’ [https://www.history.com/topics/womens-history/florence-nightingale-1]
  • BBC, ‘Florence Nightingale: Saving lives with statistics’ [https://www.bbc.co.uk/teach/florence-nightingale-saving-lives-with-statistics/zjksmfr]
  • National Archives, ‘Florence Nightingale, Why do we remember her?’ [https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/education/resources/florence-nightingale/]


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NIPD Genetics - Privacy Policy

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