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Profile of the Day: Florence Nightingale

Today marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale, a social reformer and the founder of modern nursing. A pioneer of her field, Nightingale’s work to improve sanitation, reform health care, and formalize nursing education helped pave the way for the important role of nurses in health care today.

Image: Florence Nightingale / Library of Congress

Nightingale was born on May 12, 1820 in Florence, Italy to an affluent family. From a young age, Nightingale spent much of her time helping the poor and ill near her father’s estate and by the age of 16, she believed it was her calling from God to become a nurse despite her parents’ strong objections.

In 1854, Nightingale was commissioned to lead a team of volunteer nurses to tend to wounded soldiers of the Crimean War. Appalled by the unsanitary and horrific conditions of the facility, she immediately set to work to improve sanitation and care inside the hospital. She was called “the Lady with the Lamp” as she took to making her nightly rounds carrying a small lighted lamp. Nightingale assisted soldiers writing letters to relatives and provided educational and recreational activities. Those moved by her compassion and comfort took to calling her “the Angel of the Crimea.” Nightingale’s work helped to significantly improve the quality of patient care and sharply reduce death rates at the hospital.

Nightingale was also a pioneer in the visual representation of information and statistics. She developed a form of a pie chart she called a “coxcomb,” to illustrate army mortality data and in 1859, she became the first female member of the Royal Statistical Society.

After the war, Nightingale founded the first secular nursing school in the world at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London. Today, her birthday is celebrated around the world as International Nurses Day.

Explore Florence Nightingale’s family tree on Geni and share your connection to “the Lady with the Lamp.”

View Florence Nightingale’s Geni Profile

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