Florence Nightingale


Younger Life


Florence Nightingale was born in 1820 in Florence, Italy, which she was named after.  In 1844 she decided to become a nurse after a call from God seven years before.  This decision was made against the expectations of those around her, because women with her background had ambitions only to be a wife and mother.  In 1853 she became superintendent at an institute for women in London, where she stayed for a year.


Crimean War


Florence Nightingale is probably most famous for her work in the Crimean War.  She was disturbed by reports of the conditions for those who had been injured, which led to her travelling to the Ottoman Empire with 38 other nurses in October 1854 to work with the injured soldiers.   The conditions they found included poor hygiene, overcrowding, infections and overworked staff.   More soldiers died from conditions relating to these than to the injuries sustained in battle. Requests from Nightingale led to the building of the Renkioi Hospital.  She was nicknamed ‘The Lady with the Lamp’ due to her night-time rounds of the wards.

During the war she believed that the high number of deaths she encountered were due to overwork and poor nutrition, despite the death toll being reduced significantly after improvements were made to the sewers, and hospital ventilation.  After the war, in Britain, she began to realise that sanitary living conditions were important for the health of patients, and used this knowledge to aid the design of hospitals.


Later Life


From 1857 Florence Nightingale spent periods bedridden and depressed, although there is debate about the causes of this, although brucellosis is generally agreed on.   This did not prevent her working though, in particular regarding the planning of hospitals.

In 1860 Florence Nightingale set up the Nightingale Training School, which is now part of King’s College London.   She raised money for a hospital near her home in Buckinghamshire, and also published a book used in the training of nurses.  In 1883 she was given the Royal Red Cross and became the first woman to receive the Order of Merit in 1907.


Florence Nightingale died in 1910 in her sleep and was buried in Hampshire, after her family declined an offer of burial in Westminster Abbey.


Further Reading


Bostridge, M. (2009) Florence Nightingale: The Woman and her Legend.  London.  Penguin.


Nightingale, F. (1970) Notes on Nursing: What is it and What it is Not.  New York.  Dover Publications.


Florence, F., and Goldie, S.M. (1997) Letters from the Crimea.  Mandolin.