Fun Fact: Florence Nightingale was named after the city she was born in while her parents were traveling: Florence, Italy.
Even though it was not a respected profession at the time, Nightingale told her parents that she wanted to become a nurse. Her parents did not approve of her decision at first and wanted her to get married and raise a family. Nightingale still wanted to be a nurse, refused marriage, and eventually went to school in Germany, and then in Paris with the Sisters of Mercy. She returned to her hometown England in 1853 and became the superintendent and manager of a hospital for “gentlewomen” in London.
When the Crimean War began in 1854, the British were unprepared to deal with the number of sick and injured soldiers. The lack of medical supplies, overcrowding, and unsanitary conditions led to high mortality rates and lots of complaints. At first, the doctors were unwelcoming because they did not want to work with females. However, the doctors soon became desperate for their help. The nurses brought supplies, food, and sanitation to the military hospital. Nightingale was known for carrying a lamp and checking on the soldiers at night, so they gave her the nickname, “the Lady with the Lamp.” Within six months, Nightingale and her team transformed the hospital; the death rate went down from 40 percent to 2 percent.
When Nightingale returned from the war, she continued to improve the conditions of hospitals. She presented her experiences and her data to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1856. This data was the reason they formed a Royal Commission to improve the health of the British Army. Nightingale was so skilled with data and numbers that in 1858 she was also elected as the first female member of the Royal Statistical Society. In 1859, Nightingale continued to spread her healthier medical practices by helping to set up the Army Medical College in Chatham. That same year, she published a book called Notes on Nursing: What it is, and What it is Not, and continued to educate nurses.