Florence Nightingale Biography

(Social Reformer & Founder of Modern Nursing and Known as 'The Lady with the Lamp')

Birthday: May 12, 1820 (Taurus)

Born In: Florence, Italy

Florence Nightingale was a British social reformer who founded modern nursing. Her biggest contribution to humanity was when she volunteered to help in the Crimean war to tend to wounded soldiers. Later in life she tried to bring about reforms regarding the hygiene problems of the Army hospitals. She wrote many books and letters to improvise the treatments and care given to wounded soldiers. She laid the foundation for pursuing nursing as a profession by elite British women and others as well. In the Victorian age the society was cruel towards women taking up this vocation. They felt that for nursing one did not need much intelligence or knowledge; and nurses were thought of as being a little above prostitutes at that time. Florence changed the whole notion and perspective of the society and gave a new meaning to nursing altogether. She fought till the very end for better health care and proper sanitation facilities after losing more men in the Crimean war due to infections than battle-wounds. She was also a brilliant mathematician and a versatile writer. She was a true feminist and though she was not much of an orthodox, she stayed with the church till the end. The Nightingale pledge in her honour is taken by new nurses promising to fulfil their duties as care-givers.
Quick Facts

British Celebrities Born In May

Died At Age: 90


father: William Nightingale

mother: Frances Nightingale

siblings: Frances Parthenope Verney

Born Country: Italy

Quotes By Florence Nightingale Nurses

Died on: August 13, 1910

place of death: London, England

City: Florence, Italy

Founder/Co-Founder: Modern nursing

discoveries/inventions: Polar Area Chart

More Facts

awards: 1883 - Royal Red Cross
1907 - Order of Merit

Childhood & Early Life
She was born in Italy to William Edward Nightingale and Frances “Fanny” Nightingale. She had one sister. Florence was born into a rich, well-connected British family.
Florence was raised at Lea Hurst where she received classical education which included German, Italian and French.
By the time she reached 16, Florence, who always had a very keen interest in philanthropy and caring for the sick, knew her calling was nursing. She believed without doubt that this was her divine calling.
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Pursuing a career in nursing was looked down upon by the society at that time, especially for someone with an affluent background. After much opposition, Florence announced her decision to enter the field in 1844.
She enrolled herself as a student at the Lutheran Hospital of Pastor Fliedner in Kaiserwerth, Germany. She then worked hard to educate herself in the art and science of nursing.
On her trips to Egypt and Paris, she realized that disciplined and well- organised nuns or sisters made better nurses than women in England. When she returned home she started visiting hospitals in London, Edinburgh and Dublin. In 1853, she was appointed Superintendent of the Hospital for Invalid Gentlewoman.
In October 1853, the Crimean War broke out. A large number of British soldiers were sent to the front and by 1854 around 18000 soldiers were injured and admitted into military hospitals. Nightingale received a letter from Secretary of War, Sidney Herbett - both eventually became very good friends - requesting assistance from her nurses to tend to the soldiers. She assembled a team of more than 30 nurses and sailed to Crimea immediately.
The condition of the soldiers there was much worse than expected. When they reached Scutari, the soldiers were in a horrible state due to the lack of proper sanitation and unhygienic surroundings. The medicine supply was little and the death rate was on an all time high.
Nightingale quickly got to work and tried to lower the death rate. Apart from the basic sanitary precautions, she also improved the quality of their stay in the hospital.
The war was over by March 1856. An estimated 94000 men were sent to the war front, out of which almost 4000 died of battle wounds, 19000 died of diseases and 13000 were invalidated out of the Army.
Florence returned to England as a national hero but she was deeply shocked by the mass death that took place right before her eyes because of poor sanitation. Therefore, she was determined to begin a campaign that would improve the quality of nursing in military hospitals. She started investigating before the Royal Commission on the Health of the Army and that resulted in the formation of the Army Medical College.
In 1855, the Nightingale fund was set up to open up a training school for nurses. By 1860, �50,000 had been collected and The Nightingale School and Home for Nurses was established at St. Thomas Hospital. She could not be the superintendent because of her ‘Crimean fever’ but she closely watched the progress of the institution.
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When the Indian Mutiny broke out in 1857, she wished to come to India and help improve the sanitation facilities. Even though she could never come, she played an instrumental role in getting a Sanitary Department established by the Indian government.
Even when she was resting at home, she was still very much active in reforming and improving the health care system, interviewing politicians and distinguished visitors from her bed.
Major works
Her biggest contribution was her unrelenting care given to the soldiers of the Crimean War even though it took a toll on her own health.
She published two books to spread her ideas and opinions on reforms, namely ‘Notes on Hospital’ (1859) and ‘Notes on Nursing’ (1859).
Awards & Achievements
She was awarded the Royal Red Cross by Queen Victoria in 1883. She also became the first lady to be awarded the Order of Merit in 1907.
In 1910, she was awarded the badge of honour of the Norwegian Red Cross Society.
Personal Life & Legacy
Though she was very attractive, she chose to remain a spinster as she believed marriage would hamper her calling. She had a relationship with a politician and poet, Richard Monckton Milnes that lasted for nine years but it did not lead to marriage.
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She was very good friends with Sidney Herbert, Secretary of War and both were instrumental in the success of each other’s career.
She had a deep relationship with Benjamin Jowett who wanted to marry her.
She died peacefully at the age of 90 in South Street Park, London in August 1910.
The Nightingale Building in the School of Nursing and Midwifery at the University of Southampton has been named after her.
International Nurses Day is celebrated every year on her birthday.
Many hospitals and museums have been named after her and a number of statues have been erected in her memory.
Nightingale was represented by Reginald Berkeley in his theatrical production ‘The Lady with the Lamp’ which premiered in London in 1929.
The president of India gives away the National Florence Nightingale Award every year on the occasion of the International Nurses Day - May 12th.
She was nicknamed “The Lady with the Lamp” by her soldier patients.
She is called the pioneer of nursing
Her birthday - 12th May - is celebrated as the International Nurses Day.

See the events in life of Florence Nightingale in Chronological Order

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