A Passionate Statistician: Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale went by many nicknames (The Soldier’s Preserver, The Angel of Crimea, The Lady with the Lamp) but, more importantly, she is the most vital person in the history of modern healthcare.

Nightingale was born on May 12, 1820 into an upper-class family, and the expectation was that she would maintain the traditional housewife role like most women in the mid-1800s. She went against their wishes and followed her own dream to help the sick and wounded... Nightingale felt it was her “calling from God” or “duty” to help those in need.

During the Crimean War, British soldiers were dying more frequently via infections contracted in unsanitary hospital conditions, rather than actual injuries on the battlefield. Nightingale became aware of this and vowed to do something about it, assembling a makeshift-team of nurses (that included 15 Catholic nuns) and traveled right into the heat of battle.

It was also here in Crimea where Nightingale began to record data on patients, most notably, credited as being one of the first to use picture graphs and statistical analysis reports (something Navitas knows a bit about!). She looked at death rates and found that nutrition, supplies, fresh air and manpower could all be improved to ultimately save the lives of many soldiers. As a result, from the time Nightingale and her team arrived, the death rate in hospitals she monitored went from 42% to 2%.

Nightingale’s findings during the Crimean War sparked worldwide healthcare reform – those experiences and travels to the different hospitals were later presented to the Royal Commission on the Health of the Army; these findings revealed the importance of nutrition and sanitary conditions for a human’s well-being that we still follow to this day. Later in life, she would be considered a pioneer in medical tourism, by documenting everything from health conditions to medical procedures used in different parts of the world in places like Switzerland, Egypt, and even the Ottoman Empire.

Queen Victoria rewarded Nightingale’s work by presenting her with a monetary prize for her perseverance during the Crimean War. Nightingale invested that money into building the St. Thomas Hospital, and within it, the Nightingale Training School for Nurses. Here, she trained women based on the experiences that made her successful, and eventually nursing became one of the most respected professions throughout the world. Nightingale also authored Notes on Nursing, the catalyst of curriculum at the nursing school she established; it even caught on with the public outside the health spectrum, at a time when most basic sanitary information wasn’t known to many. At the time, the book became recognized as “knowledge that everyone should have.”


“The very first requirement in a hospital is that it should do the sick no harm.”

“How very little can be done under the spirit of fear.”


Florence Nightingale had to convince the Royal hierarchy that what she was proposing was worth it.

  • The queen loved her ideas, males opposed it... not wanting the leadership of a woman.
  • Sidney Herbert was her biggest ally; he made the connections for her to truly important people.

Four hospitals are named after Nightingale in Istanbul.