British People

A saintly nurse who changed the world

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 May, 2011, 12:00am

Tomorrow is International Nurses Day. It is celebrated in honour of Florence Nightingale, who was known as the 'Lady with the Lamp' for her devotion to nursing.


Nightingale was born on May 12, 1820 in Florence, Italy. Her parents were British and very rich. She never married so she could devote herself fully to nursing the sick. She believed it was God's will that she should remain single.


Nightingale was very good at maths. She used her own chart, a Polar Area Diagram, to demonstrate the number of deaths during the Crimean war (1854-56). Her diagram resembled a pie chart. In 1859, Nightingale was elected to be the first female member of the Royal Statistical Society.


In those days, nursing was seen as a job fit only for low-status women. Nightingale disagreed. She took a course in nursing and set up a group of women to tend to wounded soldiers in the Crimean war. Many soldiers who suffered battlefield wounds died from infections. She focused on cleanliness, saving many lives.

The Lady with the Lamp

Nightingale did not let other nurses enter hospital wards at night. She would check the wards herself, carrying a lamp. This earned her the above nickname. She only slept for four hours each day. After the war, she became a major voice, urging hospitals to stay clean. That way, sick people would not get infected by germs.

Nursing school

In 1860, Nightingale started a nursing school at St Thomas' Hospital in London. It was the first nursing school not linked to a church. New nurses still make the Nightingale Pledge.


Nightingale's voice was recorded in 1890. It is now available online. Her picture appeared on GBP10 banknotes between 1975 and 1994. Statues of her stand in Waterloo Place, London, and London Road, Derby. Also in Derby, a stained-glass window at St Peter's Church features nine panels that show episodes from her life. Several hospitals around the world have been named after her.


In 1883, Queen Victoria awarded Nightingale the Royal Red Cross for her work. In 1907, she became the first woman to receive the Order of Merit from King Edward VII. Nightingale wrote 200 books, reports and papers on medicine and nursing.

Illness and death

Nightingale came back from the Crimean war with an illness. This illness kept her in bed for most of her life. She did her writing while in bed. She died on August 13, 1910 at the age of 90.

Now do this:

1 In which war did Florence Nightingale nurse soldiers?

a. Crimean war

b. Spanish civil war

c. Baltic war

2 At which hospital did Nightingale start a nursing school?

a. St Augustine's Hospital

b. St Thomas' Hospital

c. St Dominic's Hospital

3 On which banknote did Nightingale appear?

a. GBP5

b. GBP10

c. GBP20

Answers: 1. a, 2. b, 3. b