Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale | Nurse, Statistician
* 12 May 1820 in Florence | + 13 August 1910 in London

The path that seems the most straightforward is often not the route to happiness. Florence Nightingale could have chosen to lead a comfortable upper-class British life. But, to her, marriage seemed like a prison. She wanted a vocation. To help others. Defiant in the face of bureaucratic obstacles and social pressures, Florence became a nurse. This led to her organising the entire supply system of the British military hospital in Scutari during the Crimean War.  

Florence had no interest in clothes or makeup, choosing deplorable conditions over dinner parties. The military hospital was in an appalling state of squalor. She encountered terrible suffering, with wounded people lying in the mud and epidemics spreading like wildfire. Undeterred, Florence developed a system for care and hygiene. She laid the foundations for modern nursing science without which we would be especially lost now, amidst a pandemic.

Florence grew to become one of the most beloved people in England. Like a popstar of her time, she was liberated and driven. A veritable „Florence mania“ came about – ships and newborns were named after her, and ornamental porcelain figurines were made in her likeness. 

During her work in the Crimean War, Florence contracted brucellosis and was bedridden for the second half of her life. Despite this, she took on the task of analysing the data she had captured in the Crimean War to convert it into complex statistics. Plotting her findings on graphs, she managed to persuade the Queen and Parliament to push through reforms. 

In 1858 Florence became the first woman to be appointed to the Royal Statistical Society as well as becoming an honorary member of the American Statistical Association.  

She was a superbly talented and creative statistician who saved tens of thousands of lives by recording and evaluating data. She was, above all, a fiercely strong-willed woman who remained true to herself. Florence Nightingale continues to be a role model and inspiration to this day.