Person Female Born 12/5/1820 Died 13/8/1910
Nurse, statistician, author. Born in Italy (go on, guess which city) while her parents were on the grand tour. Her sister was born one year earlier in Naples, and named Frances Parthenope, the Greek form of 'Naples', of course. From a rich, well-connected family she should have married well and settled down, but that was not in her make-up, she wanted to 'do' something important, despite her family's disapproval.
Already a (religious) committed nurse, she heard about the horrific conditions of the soldiers in the Crimean War and went with a staff of 38 other nurses to Scutari, Turkey, 330 miles from the British Camp at Balaklava. The high death rate at Scutari was largely due to unsanitary conditions; 10 soldiers died of diseases to every one that died of battle wounds. This was not improved until the government sent a Sanitary Commission to the hospital, 6 months after Nightingale had arrived. The incompetence of the army war machine was largely due to the Duke of Cambridge's influence. Back in Britain she analysed the figures and understood the importance of sanitary living conditions which she promoted through the rest of her career. She was a powerful woman with a domineering streak, but as a woman she was prevented from doing many things directly and had to achieve many of her objectives through men who were not as capable as she was. Statistics were one of her tools and she was a pioneer in the use of graphical analysis as a call to action and her report to Parliament contained a very early use of the rose diagram. In 1959 she published 'Notes on Nursing' which was a basis for the formation of the modern nursing profession.
Never married and had a few intense relationships with women. On her return from the Crimea she went to bed and stayed there for 20 years. It was from bed that she carried on her research and campaigning work. In her lifetime her ‘Crimean Fever’ was undiagnosed but in modern times it has been identified as brucellosis. Died at home at 10 South Street, Park Lane (photo of her shortly before death) and was buried alongside her parents at St Margaret's, East Wellow, near her parent's home, Embley Park in Hampshire. Maternal grandfather was William Smith. The annual International Nurses Day is celebrated on her birthday. There is a museum at St Thomas’ Hospital.