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Florence Nightingale's Biography

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Florence Nightingale was born on 12 May 1820 in Florence, Italy and died on 13 August 1910.

Educated by her father, Florence Nightingale spent her early years visiting the sick in the villages and hospitals near the family home. However, her parents were against her becoming a nurse, as it was not seen as a suitable occupation for an educated young woman, and they sent her off travelling with family friends to Europe.

Whilst in Germany, she visited a hospital in Kaiserswerth, that also functioned as a medical school. She returned the following year and spent three months there training as a nurse. On her return to England, she took up a position in Harley Street as a Superintendent at an establishment for gentlewoman.

During the Crimean War, Florence Nightingale was asked by Sidney Herbert, the War Minister, to act as Lady-in-Chief and establish the use of nurses in the military hospitals in Turkey. Unwelcome at first, her work soon became vital, as high numbers of casualties left the hospitals fully stretched and her work helping the British soldiers earned her great respect. Following her return to England after the war, a campaign was set-up to investigate the health of the British Army.

In 1860, Florence Nightingale helped establish the Nightingale Training School for nurses at St Thomas' Hospital where nurses could receive a year's training. During the same year she published Notes on Nursing, which dealt with the principles of nursing and became her most famous work. The book was translated into several languages and is still available today. In all, Florence Nightingale published over 200 works on the subject of nursing and health.

In 1883, she was awarded the Royal Red Cross from Queen Victoria and was the first woman to receive the Order of Merit. She died at the age of 90. Florence Nightingale's influence is still felt throughout the health care world to this day.

Contemporary interest in her is still strong. There is a Florence Nightingale Museum at St Thomas' Hospital and on 1 June 2008, the BBC1 transmitted a drama of her life starring Laura Fraser.

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