History- Important places, persons in news

Florence Nightingale and her legacy


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Florence Nightingale

Mains level : Not Much

The 200th birth anniversary of Florence Nightingale, founder of modern nursing, falls tomorrow on May 12.

Personality based questions sometimes find their way in the Prelims. For example:

Q) A recent movie titled The Man Who Knew Infinity is based on the biography of – (CSP 2016)

(a) S. Ramanujan

(b) S. Chandrasekhar

(c) S. N. Bose

(d) C. V. Raman

Who was Florence Nightingale?

  • Nightingale (1820-1910), who had considerable mathematical skills, is credited with being the first healthcare professional to use data to show that infection control improves health outcomes.
  • Through her career, she stressed a practice that is relevant as ever today — handwashing.

Nurse and mathematician

  • Her signature effort came during the Crimean War (1854-56), when she answered a government call for nurses and took a posting in Turkey.
  • This is where she earned the name ‘Lady with the Lamp’, for walking around patients’ beds at night, holding a lamp. Here she did her pioneering work with statistics.
  • When she arrived, diseases such as cholera and typhus were rife in the hospitals.
  • Nightingale collected data, calculated the mortality rate, and showed that an improvement of sanitary methods would reduce the number of deaths.
  • The mortality rate dropped from 60% to 42.7% by February 1855, and to 2.2% by the spring.

  • She used her data to create graphics, the most famous of which is a polar area diagram (pictured) that used areas to represent variations in death rate.
  • The blue wedges from the center of the circle represent area for the deaths from Preventable or Mitigable diseases, the red wedges measured from the center is deaths from wounds, & the black wedges measured from the center is the deaths from all other causes.
  • The blue wedges, representing death by sickness, are far bigger than those representing wounds.
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