DISINFACTS | Issue 2/2020

Nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale 200 years old and still relevant She is considered the founder of modern nursing and was one of the first to introduce improved hygiene in hospitals and cities: the 200th birthday of Florence Nightingale will be celebrated on 12 May, a day that has become International Nurses Day. What can we learn these days from the dedicated Briton, who died in 1910 at 90 years of age after an extremely productive life? and social history of health and disease. The two hundredth birthday of Nightingale was an occasion for the historian to examine this remarkable woman. The result is a 320 page biography that was published in March and paints a more nuanced picture of Florence Nightingale. ‘To reduce Nightingale to her role as the saintly nurse in the Crimean War or her role as the founder of modern secular nursing does not do her justice,’ said Dr Herold-Schmidt. Much of the output of her ninety years of life would be dismissed, for example, with few aware that she was an outstanding expert on all matters of public health and hygiene and a renowned hospital reformer. ‘She was also a social reformer and an original religious thinker. She campaigned against prostitution and for women’s rights and was a pioneer of statistics. Thanks to her, we now have the popular pie chart.’ Florence Nightingale became a legend in the British Empire primarily as a result of her work in the Crimean War from 1853 to 1856. During this time in a military hospital in front of the gates of Istanbul, a picture emerged of a devout young woman, an ‘angel of mercy’, who sacrificed herself and cared for injured and sick soldiers under the most challenging circumstances. The picture of her as the ‘lady with the lamp’ shows, for example, Nightingale watching over British soldiers in the wards long into the night. Much more than nursing ‘Most representations of Nightingale concentrate on the Crimean War and only examine the second half of her life, in which she was so productive, from a few angles,’ said the history and political scientist Dr Hedwig Herold-Schmidt at the University of Jena. Dr Herold-Schmidt has worked for years on the cultural ‘Cleanliness and hygiene were always Nightingale’s creed.’ PEOPLE & PERSPECTIVES DISINFACTS 2/20 page 18