Florence Nightingale was born May 12 1820 into an upper-middle class family in Britain. She, like her older sister Parthenope, was named after an Italian city. She rebelled against the expected role for a woman of her status, which was to become an obedient wife. Instead she chose nursing, a career with a poor reputation and filled mostly by poorer women.
She later told that she had received divine calling for her work in 1837 at Embley. Her 1845 announcement of her intentions aroused much ire. In 1851 she rejected the marriage proposal of philanthropist Richard Monkton Milnes, again against her mother's wishes. Nightingale persisted against the wishes of her family and received four months of training in Germany as a deaconess of Kaiserwerth in 1851. In 1853, with the aid of Secretary at War, Sidney Herbert, she took a post of Superintendent at Institute for the Care of Sick Gentlewomen in Upper Harley Street, London.
Her most famous contribution was during the Crimean War, when reports came back to Britain about the horrific conditions for the wounded. A public project was founded to address the problem and Sidney Herbert asked Nightingale to go.
October 21 1854 Florence Nightingale and a staff of 38 women volunteer nurses, trained by Nightingale and including her aunt Mai Smith, were sent to the Crimea. In Scutari (modern-day Uskudar) they found wounded soldiers being badly cared for by overworked medical staff in the face of official indifference. Medicines were in short supply, hygiene was being neglected, and mass infections were common, many of them fatal. There was no equipment to process food for the patients.
Nightingale and her compatriots began by thoroughly cleaning the hospital and equipment, and reorganizing patient care. Although she met resistance from the doctors and officers, her changes vastly improved conditions for the wounded and by April dropped mortality rates by 40% (to 2%). She sent many letters to the Sidney Herbert, to facilitate better medical care. Reportedly she treated 2000 patients herself. She also contracted Crimean Fever. She is remembered today because of the administrative skills that she introduced to hospitals and to patient care. She also acquired the nickname "The Lady of The Lamp".
Nightingale returned to Britain a heroine in August 7 1857. She moved from the family home in Buckinghamshire to Burlington Hotel in Piccadilly. However, she also succumbed to a fever of possible psychosomatic origin. She barred her mother and sister from her room and rarely left it. She persuaded Queen Victoria to authorize the Royal Commission to investigate the role of the Military Establishment during the war.
She spent the rest of her life promoting the nursing profession and organizing it into its modern form. Her book Notes on Nursing sold well. She founded the Nightingale School of Nursing at St. Thomas Hospital in July 9 1860. First trained Nightingale nurses began work in May 16 at the Liverpool Workhouse Infirmary. She also campaigned and raised funds for the Royal Buckinghamshire Hospital in Aylesbury, near her family home.
After the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861, Union government approached her for advice to organize field medicine, although her ideas met official resistance there as well. Her ideas inspired the volunteer body of United States Sanitary Commission and US volunteers like Dorothea Dix, Clara Barton and Cornelia Hancock.
Nightingale was also an expert statistician and pioneer in the nascent field of epidemiology. For example, she made a statistical study of sanitation in Indian rural life. She invented a diagram known as the coxcomb or polar area chart to depict changing patient outcomes in the military field hospital she managed. In 1858, Florence Nightingale was elected the first female member of the Statistical Society and she also became an honorary member of the American Statistical Association.
In 1883 Queen Victoria awarded her with Royal Red Cross medal and in 1907 she became the first woman to receive Order of Merit. She could not leave her bed after 1896. Florence Nightingale died in August 13, 1910.