A most remarkable woman

For those who have read my blogs for a while will know that I have a fascination with numbers - statistics.  Some might find it a little strange that a woman is so interested in numbers, I wasn't always until I started to work with statistics in 1990.  I have continued ever since. 

Statistics tell us so much about the society that we live in and records the changes that are occurring, allowing us to measure if things are improving or not!  Without statistics it would be almost impossible to know if the economy was running as it should . . . statistics are critical to any government or business today.  I love social statistics, I'm no economist and in many of my blogs I have shared a range of social statistics with you.  This is perhaps one reason why going to work is not too painful, I spend my days "playing" with numbers. This might completely bore some people, but I find it fascinating.  Strange, I know. . . for this reason I wanted to share with you one woman who also shared my interest. Florence Nightingale. And, no it isn't an interesting in nursing.

Florance Nightingale is best remembered for her two greatest achievements—pioneering of nursing and the reform of hospitals.  For a woman of the Victoria age, this was remarkable, as women of this era received a limited education and their adult lives revolved around marriage, children and the home. A professional career was out of the question, mostly as a result of being excluded from much of the workforce by law.  Florance Nightingale followed her calling, much to the horror of her mother (but probably no surprise of her father) and many a life was saved as a result.

Florence Nightingale receiving the wounded at Scutari by Jerry Barrett

Even though a remarkable nurse she did something that had not been done before within the nursing profession . . . she undertook research, collected statistics and interpreted the results and in doing so understood, perhaps for the first time, why so many soldiers were dying in the Crimea from preventable illness. Thanks to her collaboration with William Far (who had recently invented the field of medical statistics), she developed graphical methods of presenting her statistical results that clearly demonstrated what was going on in the hospital (new techniques at the time).  Her results could not be ignored. She most certainly was a woman before her times.   

Thanks to the misuse of statistics by our modern politicians, most people mistrust statistics when they hear them quoted. Common place today, however during the Victorian age, this type of research was not generally done at all.  Florence invented polar-area charts, where the statistic was represented proportional to the area of a wedge in a circular diagram – a version of the pie chart.  She also developed a Model Hospital Statistical Form for hospitals to collect and generate consistent data and statistics – this is amazing considering some organisations still struggle with this today.   

Hospital at Scutari, details of Florence Nightingale on the wards, painting by William Simpson
She became a Fellow of the Royal Statistical Society in 1858 (at the age of 38) and an honorary member of the American Statistical Association in 1874 (at 54).  In her lifetime she wrote 200 books, papers and pamphlets and worked tirelessly to make a difference and to save lives.  She rejected several marriage proposals and she felt that marriage would interfere with her work. 

Florence Nightingale was a statistician even though she had no formal training.  Thanks to her father who strongly believed in the education of his daughters, Florence was exposed to Italian, Latin, Greek, history, and mathematics.  Even though her sisters went on to marry and have children, Florence followed her calling which she believed came from God and became a nurse.  And we are all better off because of her.  Most certainly a very remarkable woman.  She was no feminist even though she worked all her life, she simply believed she could make a differences and what a differences she made, not only to nursing but to the humble pie chart.
One of Florence Nightingale's pie charts and she didn't use a computer like I do today!! I couldn't live without Excel, how did Florence cope.  That most certainly makes her remarkable.


  1. What a very interesting blog post, Jo! I had no idea that Florence was anything apart from a nurse!! She isn't well-known for these other aspects! So, I just learned something new! :)
    She was a very smart woman, and she did make a big difference!

  2. Yea ditto to what Clara said. I only knew she was a nurse too! Remarkable woman!


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