Florence Nightingale is best known for having founded modern nursing and helped improve the care provided by hospitals. She was named after her birthplace, Florence, Italy. Raised in England during the Victorian Age, her father provided her a good education through tutors, especially in classics and mathematics. She went on to seek a career in nursing, despite her family's disapproval. Up to that time nurses had mostly been religious, monastic women or untrained helpers of low repute. Nonetheless, she perceived a calling, and chose to rebel against the traditional woman's role as a wife and mother.
Her early career began with extensive training and eventually her
contributions during the Crimean War (1854-56). Florence trained in Egypt,
Germany and France, before serving in a home for "gentlewomen" suffering from
illness in London. During this time, she began to hear of the horrific
conditions the wounded were living in during the Crimean War. She and
thirty-eight other nurses volunteered to help tend to the wounded. She became
famous for her dedication toward the welfare of her patients, earning the
nickname "the Lady with the Lamp" for her tending the sick through the
night. More significantly, she sought to improve sanitary conditions in
the medical facilities. She proved her case through statistical analysis,
using what she called "coxcombs," now known as "polar-area diagrams." Her
proof of the effectiveness of proper hygiene for the recovery from wounds and
disease led to a reform of the entire military hospital
Nightingale's work continued to help improve health care through the rest of her life. After the war, using money donated from her former patients and the public, she founded the
By her death in 1910, Nightingale had lived to see enormous changes occur in the medical field because of her work. She broke through gender barriers and made nursing an organized and respectable profession. Health conditions improved in the military through her work and research during the Crimean War. Eventually health conditions began to improve all over England through her nursing schools. Her work was invaluable to society and set a foundation for high sanitary standards. The world is indebted to Florence Nightingale and her amazing contributions to medicine.
Anderson, Alison A. "Florence Nightingale: Constructing a Vocation."
Anglican Theological Review. 78, no. 3 (Summer 1996):
This article looks at Miss Nightingale's career from a theological perspective. The author tries to analyze how her belief in God played a role in Miss Nightingale's life and how she was inspired to live a chaste life in service of her fellow human beings. It also reflects on Miss Nightingale's disputation of the commonly-held opinion that women are inferior to men, arguing instead that women are just as capable to man in reasoning. This is a unique source because of its focus on Nightingale's spiritual life. The author uses Nightingale's own journals and letters to examine how faith shaped her work. This article would be useful for someone looking to do an in-depth study of Florence Nightingale, or anyone who is interested in spiritual matters.
Andrews, Mary Raymond Shipman. A Lost Commander: Florence Nightingale.
Garden City: Doubleday, Doran and Company, Inc., 1929.
This book, while a useful source on general information regarding Florence Nightingale, reads more like historical fiction rather than a scholarly source. Everything in it appears to be accurate, but it has a novel-like style. It is entertaining and would be good for beginners, but it wouldn't be suitable for a scholarly paper. There are sections of the book where the reader is hearing the thoughts of Nightingale or reading conversations she had with her family. While built from facts, there is no way to know if these situations are accurate. Overall, this is a good introductory source, but not something to be taken word for word.
Cynthia. "Florence Nightingale." Biographies of Women Mathematicians 3 June
(10 November 2005).
A short but informative article (much copied and quoted on the web) about Nightingale, focusing on her use of statistics. It includes an example of a "polar area" diagram by Nightingale, which is somewhat similar to a pie chart. This article relies on the Cohen article for key information (see below). While brief, this article also contains a list of references that could be used to find further information.
Bruner, Jerome. "Florence Nightingale." Spartacus Schoolnet. No date.
This site is directed towards a younger audience and contains a good biography with a bibliography. There are links to important terms throughout the text, which are very helpful. There is also a good deal of information comparing Nightingale to another early pioneer in nursing, Mary Seacole. The site has a page containing classroom activities comparing the two. This is a good web site for teachers looking for interesting ways to bring Nightingale into the classroom.
Coakley, Mary Lewis. "The Faith Behind the Famous: Florence Nightingale."
Christian History. 9, no. 1 (February 1990): 37-40.
This is another article that looks at Florence Nightingale's life from a spiritual standpoint. Unlike the Anderson article, this piece is not as heavily bogged down with theological analysis. It is much easier to read and could be useful to a wide range of individuals. There are some excerpts from her journals and a timeline of the major events in her life at the end of the article. It also touches on some of the problems that Miss Nightingale encountered because she chose not to follow traditional female roles and her success working in a male dominated society.
Cohen, Bernard I. "Florence Nightingale." Sociology 208 - STATISTICS
Professor François Nielsen Fall 2002. <http://www.unc.edu/~nielsen/soci208/cdocs/cohen.htm> (10 November 2005).
This is a scanned version of an article (Cohen, I. B. "Florence Nightingale," Scientific American, 250 (March 1984),128-137) located on Professor François Nielsen's page for his fall 2002 class Sociology 208 - Statistics for Sociologists. This is a scholarly article that focuses on Nightingale's charts and statistics, with pictures. The emphasis of the article is on her findings, but it is written in a style that is easy for most readers to understand. There are several copies of her different styles of charts, along with explanations on how she used or improved them during her work.
Cook, Edward Tyas, Sir. The Life of Florence Nightingale. London:
Macmillan Company, 1913.
Though one of the oldest sources on this page, this is the book that other people turn to when writing a biography on Florence Nightingale. It is the most comprehensive of any book written about her, and contains two volumes worth of information that include a large number of primary sources. The table of contents includes a description of each chapter, making it easy to locate the information you need. This book describes, in great detail, all the events influencing Miss Nightingale's life. Additional information is supplied through letters to and from Miss Nightingale, as well as letters written from her friends to their family members. One of her letters is even photocopied in the book, so you can see a complete sample of her handwriting. There are also portraits and drawings of her throughout the book. For anyone interested in studying Florence Nightingale, this is the very best work that they could consult.
Gill, Gillian. Nightingales: The Extraordinary Upbringing and Curious
Life of Miss Florence Nightingale. New York: Ballantine Books,
This is an excellent recent source on Miss Nightingale. It is different from many of the other sources on her because this focuses on much of her life before she went into nursing. There is a lot of information about her family's background, including an extended family tree. There is also a map of the area she traveled in during the Crimean War and portraits of Florence and other members of her family. This book should be consulted by anyone interested in Nightingale's family and the resources she had available to her that allowed her to become the leader of modern nursing. This book along with Cook's biography would probably give the most complete look at Nightingale's life.
Huxley, Elspeth. Florence Nightingale. New York: G.P. Putnam's
The simple title of this book does not do it justice. This book reflects more on the life of Florence Nightingale than most through sketches, portraits, pictures, and cartoons. It doesn't offer much new information about her that can't be found in other books. It is still a worthwhile source of information because of the wealth of illustrations that are contained here.
McDonald, Joseph. "Country Joe McDonald's Tribute to Florence
Nightingale." < http://www.dnai.com/~borneo/nightingale/>
(10 November 2005).
This site was written by a musician who was inspired by his interest in nursing during the Vietnam war. It was last updated in 2003, so while it is becoming a little dated, the site still contains some useful information. The page is organized around a timeline of Nightingale's life. It talks about her accomplishments and how the medical field has benefited from her work. There are links to pictures and other sources, and the site includes a chat room. While everything on the page seems accurate, it is a personal web site, so it wouldn't be advisable to use this page if you are looking for scholarly information.
Monteiro, Lois A. Letters of Florence Nightingale. Boston: Boston
University Mugar Memorial Library, 1974.
This book provides a researcher with an excellent collection of primary sources. However, the letters are not complete in their content, nor is there a chronological or alphabetical order to their arrangement. It may take a while to find the kind of information you are looking for because of this lack of organization. The book does provide complete copies of three letters written by Miss Nightingale herself. It is useful in seeing the problems Nightingale had in getting services and aide throughout her career.
O'Connor, J. J. and Robertson, E. F. "Florence Nightingale." The MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive. October 2003. <http://www-gap.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/Mathematicians/Nightingale.html> (10 November 2005). This page is sponsored by the School of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland. It is an excellent, detailed review of her life that focuses on her accomplishments in mathematics. This page contains several good references and quotes. There is also a page full of pictures of Miss Nightingale that span her life and include a bust made of her, as well as a map that shows her birthplace.
Pulliam, Deborah, Florence Nightingale, the Lady with the Lamp. 1998.
(10 November 2005).
This about.com article was originally printed in January 1998 issue of British Heritage magazine. It is a three page biography of Nightingale, and there isn't much new information. However, there is a list of related sources and other web sites that could be explored. There is also a picture of a statue of Nightingale on the first page with a caption that gives the correct information about her famous lamp. This would be a good page for those unfamiliar with Nightingale's work, but doesn't offer much for a serious researcher.
Smith, Cecil Woodham. Florence Nightingale, 1820-1910. Toronto:
Longmans, Green and Company, 1950.
This book is a very detailed account of Miss Nightingale's life. Smith's biography ranges literally from cradle to grave and was inspired by Edward Cook's earlier biography. There are a vast amount of historic documents used throughout this biography, including letters by Miss Nightingale as well as memoirs of other predominant Victorians. There are also several rare illustrations of Nightingale in the book. Smith found many personal and family documents that Cook didn't have when he was writing and includes them in his work. This is a worthwhile book that would be a good reference when used along with some of the other sources on this list.
Strachey, Lytton. Eminent Victorians: Cardinal Manning, Florence
Nightingale, Dr. Arnold, Gen. Gordon. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons,
This source was written not long after Cook wrote his biography on Nightingale, and Strachey notes in his introduction that Cook's work is what inspired him to include her in his book. He wanted to take a sampling of the different types of people alive in the Victorian era and try to record their lives with as little bias as possible. Among these eminent Victorians, Miss Nightingale's biography (67 pages) covers most of her life. The majority of the biography covers her two years in the Crimean war, how she helped change conditions for the wounded, and her success at establishing a nursing school. There are quotes from Nightingale's letters and speeches throughout the book, along with a portrait of her. Overall, the book does an admirable job in giving a brief overview of her many accomplishments, but shouldn't be the first source you turn to in writing about Miss Nightingale.
Wyndham, Lee. Florence Nightingale: Nurse to the World. New York:
The World Publishing Company, 1969.
The Nurse to the World provides very little useful information in regards to the life of Miss Nightingale. Most of the information is based on other secondary sources and does not provide much in the way of scholarly research. This book is best used as a prelude to any serious research on Miss Nightingale. It is written on more of a middle or high school level.
"A Selection of Letters Written by Florence Nightingale." University
of Kansas Medical Center. January 2001. <http://clendening.kumc.edu/dc/fn/>
(10 November 2005).
This site by the University of Kansas Medical Center contains 39 letters that Nightingale wrote during her life. This includes transcriptions of the letters as well as scans of the original documents that the school holds in its collection. They are organized alphabetically as well as chronologically, and there is a well written explanation of how the letters have been transcribed for the internet. Many letters also include notes on who she is writing to and why they are of importance. This is a useful site for gathering firsthand information about her life, and it also includes several links to other sites.
Halsall, Paul. "Florence Nightingale on Rural Hygiene." Modern
History Sourcebook. 1997. <http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/nightingale-rural.html>
(10 November 2005).
This essay by Nightingale focuses on the problems with hygiene in rural communities. She writes in details of the dangers associated with poor hygiene, such as shallow wells located next to outhouses, and the storage and removal of garbage and excrement. She then suggests several different methods to improve small communities. Her speech ends by focusing on how women could get involved in improving the sanitary conditions in their own homes.
"In Honor of Florence." Primarily Nursing. 13, no. 2
(March/April 1994): 5.
This brief article is an excerpt from a speech Miss Nightingale gave in 1867 to students in Saint Thomas. In this speech Miss Nightingale talks about the responsibility of leadership that all nurses face. Miss Nightingale also speaks about the way a true leader must act, and how they should act at all times. To view this entire speech would be ideal, but the brief glimpse is enough to show what kind of leader Miss Nightingale was herself.
McDonald, Lynn. "The Collected Works of Florence Nightingale." Florence Nightingale Project. 2004. <http://www.sociology.uoguelph.ca/fnightingale/> (10 November 2005). This site contains a few original documents online, but mostly is a catalog of the ongoing project to collect and publish all of the written work of Miss Nightingale. There are links to where the first eight volumes of this series can be purchased. This would be useful for someone who was doing extended research on Ms. Nightingale. For an undergraduate or high school researcher, the information in these books would probably be too detailed and time consuming.
Copy of Nightingale's London Times obituary: <http://www.aam314.vzz.net/Nightingale.html> (10 November
This is a scan of the original obituary that appeared in the London Times after Nightingale died. It is quite a long piece, taking up 6 printed pages. This is a chance for readers to get a glimpse at what Nightingale's contemporaries thought of her. The obituary is a short biography of her whole life, highlighting her accomplishments in nursing. It also describes the preparations being made for her funeral and some of the events at the end of her life. While a good primary source, the small print makes it difficult to read. It may take some time to work through this source.
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Biography by Brian A. Pavlac
Original bibliography written by Ralph Bagnuolo, 1998
[Some revisions by Paul Lindenmuth in 2000]
Revised by Jean Lloyd, 2005
Last Revision: 18 December 2005
Copyright © MMV Prof. Pavlac's Women's History Site