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Person: Florence Nightingale

Life and Work of Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale – (1820 -1910)

Florence Nightingale was born in the family of William Nightingale, a wealthy landowner, on May 12th, 1820 in Florence, Italy. Florence Nightingale was a nurse and a public health advocate. She is as well known as the modern nursing profession pioneer. Her family moved to England giving her a British nationality. Her family was made up of intellectual freethinkers who supported women’s education. Thus, her father, William Nightingale, who received his education at the Trinity College, taught Florence and her sister mathematics, Greek and Latin. He also provided them with university education by hiring tutors in geography, botany, arithmetic and French to teach. Florence began her rigorous education when she was 12 and about the same time, she confessed: “I have the most enormous desire of acquiring. For seven years of my life I thought of little but cultivating my intellect.” (Audain 1998). In fact, namely Nightingale’s family and upbringing impacted her enthusiasm in mathematics.


In early 1850s, Florence was in London, where she embarked on a nursing occupation in a Middlesex hospital that catered for diseased governesses. Her performance in the hospital was extremely impressing and earned her a promotion to superintendant within just a year after her dedication to work there. Despite the position proved to be challenging to her as there emerged an outbreak of cholera due to insanitary conditions (Webb 2002), Nightingale perceived it as her mission to uplift hygiene practices that significantly lowered the mortality rate at the hospital in due course.

Although Florence Nightingale is better recognized for her significant contributions to nursing, her greatest accomplishments were in mathematics. She pioneered in the use of pie chart for data representation. Since majority of deaths in the Crimean war were by far as a result of poor sanitation rather than war casualties, she needed to persuade the government on the dire need for good hygiene in hospitals. She noted that mere numbers were least likely to impress ministers, but they were more convincing if represented by graphics or pictures. She consequently developed the idea of pie charts, which later became an immense contribution to the field of mathematics.

Florence Nightingale in the 1850s

Florence professed a strong Christian faith through her life and went miles further to shape the modern Christianity into what it is today. Since childhood, Florence desired to nurse those who fell sick and realized her desires in her service in hospitals. She believed that those wishes symbolized “God’s call on her to Him.” This divine inspiration provided her with a chance to advance her intellectual pursuits (Dossey 2010).

Death and legacy

Florence Nightingale developed troubling symptoms on the evening of August 12, 1910 and passed unexpectedly on the following Saturday at around 2pm in London, United Kingdom (Boyd 1982). She had left a wish that her funeral be modest and quiet affair that contrasted with the public desire to honour her for her tireless devotion to the poor.


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