Florence Nightingale (1820-1910)
Florence Nightingale 1856 image source Florence Nigthingale Museum

Nightingale, Florence (1820-1910), British nurse, hospital reformer, and humanitarian. Born in Florence, Italy, on May 12, 1820, Nightingale was raised mostly in Derbyshire and received a classical education from her father. In 1849 she went abroad to study the European hospital system, and in 1850 she began training in nursing at the Institute of St Vincent de Paul in Alexandria, Egypt. She subsequently studied at the Institute for Protestant Deaconesses at Kaiserswerth, Germany. In 1853 she became superintendent of the Hospital for Invalid Gentlewomen in London.

After the outbreak of the Crimean War in 1854, Nightingale, stirred by reports of the primitive sanitary conditions and grossly inadequate nursing facilities at the large British barracks-hospital at �sk�dar (formerly Scutari, now part of �stanbul, Turkey), dispatched a letter to the British secretary of war, volunteering her services in the Crimea. At the same time, unaware of her letter, the Secretary of War proposed that she assume direction of all nursing operations at the war front. She set out for �sk�dar accompanied by 38 nurses. In the rat-infested barracks she found many of the wounded without beds, lying on the floor, a shortage of bandages, and no soap, towels, or washbasins. She immediately set about organizing the cleaning of the barracks. She then established a schedule for nursing care and diets. At night she walked the corridors with her lamp, checking on the soldiers, a habit for which she became known as "the lady with the lamp". Under Nightingale's supervision, efficient nursing departments were established at �sk�dar and later at Balaklava in the Crimea. Through her tireless efforts the mortality rate among the sick and the wounded was greatly reduced.

At the close of the war in 1860, with a fund raised in tribute to her services, Nightingale founded the Nightingale School and Home for Nurses at St Thomas's Hospital, London. The opening of this school marked the beginning of professional education in nursing.

Nightingale's contributions to the evolution of nursing as a profession were invaluable. Before she undertook her reforms, nurses were largely untrained personnel who considered their job a menial chore; through her efforts the stature of nursing was raised to that of a medical profession with high standards of education and important responsibilities. She received many honours from foreign governments, and in 1907 she became the first woman to receive the Order of Merit. She died in London on August 13, 1910. In 1915 the Crimean Monument in Waterloo Place, London, was erected in her honour. Her writings include Notes on Nursing (1860), the first textbook for nurses, which was translated into many languages, and also Notes on Hospitals (1859) and Notes on Nursing for the Labouring Classes (1861). (Text source: Microsoft� Encarta� Encyclopedia 2001.)

The Florence Nightingale Museum of nursing history opened in 1989 next to St Thomas' Hospital, Lambeth and includes some personal effects of Florence Nightingale.

Museum Website
The Times obituary for Florence Nightingale