Florence. A Machine.

Written prior to lockdown by Ian Kinniburgh, this article feels more relevant three months later as we give appreciation for her life and to the NHS and nurses for their work and sacrifices always but particularly through the COVID-19 pandemic.


Florence Nightingale lived from 1820 to 1910 and had local connections to nearby Lea Hurst at Holloway effectively the family's summer retreat.


May was the 200th anniversary of her birth and to commemorate Ian has collated a few of the lesser known facts about Florence Nightingale's life:

  • Born to a very wealthy family, but fame and wealth meant nothing to her.

  • She nearly died in Crimea and was ill and bed-bound for much of her life.

  • At the age of 17 she nursed her family through a national flu epidemic.

  • Shunned publicity - travelled back from Crimea incognito as Miss Smith.

  • After the Crimean War she wrote a 900 page report for the War Office.

  • Her proven influence was worldwide, UK, USA, Canada, India, Italy, Germany, Ireland, Finland, Egypt, Turkey, Austria & Australia.

  • Powerful organiser, a strict disciplinarian, but with a real sense of humour.

  • Helped soldiers in Crimea to save and send money back to relatives in UK.

  • A genius with facts and figures, and a member of USA Statistical Association.

  • Trained nurses who made an immediate impact throughout the World.

  • A “Nightingale” nurse successfully tended the second son of Queen Victoria when he was shot in Australia in 1868.

  • Fluent in French, German, and Italian, she frequently visited these countries. She also met Garibaldi who helped unify Italy.

  • Brilliant writer and wrote novels E.G Cassandra, and a very good mimic.

  • Involved with the formation of the Red Cross and Geneva Convention.

  • Designed and advised on hospital construction throughout the World.

  • A huge impact in the liberalising of British colonial policy in India.

  • God “called her to his service” in 1837 but to what service is unclear.

  • Declined several marriage proposals and her parents opposed her nursing ambitions, but of course later relented.

  • USA asked her advice on treatment of casualties in the American Civil War.

  • Single handedly created nurses as the professionals we know them today.

  • The first UK Air Ambulance (1933) was in Surrey and named “Florence Nightingale”.

  • To obtain his inheritance her father changed his name from Shore to Nightingale at age 18.

  • William Smith, Florence’s grandfather fought for the abolition of slavery in the early 1800s. He worked with Charles Babbage the founder of early computers and is this from where Florence learnt her mathematics?

  • Her mother, one of 12 children, lived until age 92 and was nursed at her death by Florence.

  • Perhaps her reforms laid the foundations for the creation of the NHS in 1948.

  • She battled for hospital cleanliness to stop infections - a fight that it is still being waged today, 200 years later!

Words and Images: Ian Kinniburgh

Ian M Kinniburgh

E: ian266@mail.com

M: 07733 899046


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