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Florence Nightingale

British nurse, also known as "lady with a lamp.". 1820-1910

Timeline of Nightingale's Life

Florence Nightingale Timeline

12 May 1820
She was born in Italy to William Edward Nightingale and Frances “Fanny” Nightingale. She had one sister. Florence was born into a rich, well-connected British family.  Florence was raised at Lea Hurst where she received classical education which included German, Italian and French.  By the time she reached 16, Florence, who always had a very keen interest in philanthropy and caring for the sick, knew her calling was nursing. She believed without doubt that this was her divine calling.

Whilst in the gardens of her family home in Embley, Hampshire, Florence heard the voice of God calling her to do his work, but at this time had no idea what the work would be.

Presented to Queen Victoria

Introduced to Richard Monckton Milnes

Decides to work in hospitals

Declines wedding proposal of Milnes

Pursuing a career in nursing was looked down upon by the society at that time, especially for someone with an affluent background. After much opposition, Florence announced her decision to enter the field in 1844.

Seeks training at Salisbury Infirmary; parents object

1850 July
Florence returns from her trip to Italy, Egypt, Greece and Germany where she visited Pastor Theodore Fliedner’s hospital and school for deaconesses at Kaiserswerth near Dusseldorf.

Visits hospitals in Italy and observes Catholic sisters fulfilling nursing duties

Visits Kaiserwerth Institution in Germany

Returns to Kaiserwerth and joins in active nursing duties

1851 – 1853
Florence returns to Kaiserswerth for three months nursing training which then enabled her to take up post as Superintendent of the Establishment for Gentlewomen during illnesses at number one Harley Street in 1853.

She enrolled herself as a student at the Lutheran Hospital of Pastor Fliedner in Kaiserwerth, Germany. She then worked hard to educate herself in the art and science of nursing.

On her trips to Egypt and Paris, she realized that disciplined and well- organised nuns or sisters made better nurses than women in England. When she returned home she started visiting hospitals in London, Edinburgh and Dublin. In 1853, she was appointed Superintendent of the Hospital for Invalid Gentlewoman.
Becomes Superintendent of the Institution for the Care of Sick Gentlewomen in Distressed Circumstances

1853 October
The Crimean War broke out. A large number of British soldiers were sent to the front and by 1854 around 18000 soldiers were injured and admitted into military hospitals. Nightingale received a letter from Secretary of War, Sidney Herbett - both eventually became very good friends - requesting assistance from her nurses to tend to the soldiers. She assembled a team of more than 30 nurses and sailed to Crimea immediately.
The condition of the soldiers there was much worse than expected. When they reached Scutari, the soldiers were in a horrible state due to the lack of proper sanitation and unhygienic surroundings. The medicine supply was little and the death rate was on an all time high.
Nightingale quickly got to work and tried to lower the death rate. Apart from the basic sanitary precautions, she also improved the quality of their stay in the hospital.

1854 March
Britain, France and Turkey declare war on Russia. British medical facilities for the wounded are criticised by The Times. Florence recruited to oversee the introduction of female nurses into the military hospitals in Turkey.

1854 November
Florence arrives in Scutari – a suburb on the Asian side of Constantinople – with 38 nurses. Initially the doctors did not want their help but within ten days fresh casualties arrived from the Battle of Inkermann and the nurses were fully stretched.
Florence also wrote home on behalf of the soldiers and acted as banker – sending the men’s wages home to their families. She also introduced reading rooms in the hospital.
Mary SeacoleMary Seacole arrived in London and offers her services to Mrs Elizabeth Herbert (wife of Sidney Herbert, Secretary at War), who was in charge of recruiting a second group of nurses to join Florence in Scutari, but is rejected.


Crimean War begins; appointed Superintendent of the Female Nursing Establishment of the English General Hospitals in Turkey; arrives at Scutari on the Crimean War front

1855 Contracts Crimean Fever and almost dies

Mary Seacole funds her own passage to the Crimea. She also purchases medicines and home comforts that would be useful for the military. Florence and Mary meet and see much of each other in Balaclava.

In 1855, the Nightingale fund was set up to open up a training school for nurses. By 1860, �50,000 had been collected and The Nightingale School and Home for Nurses was established at St. Thomas Hospital. She could not be the superintendent because of her ‘Crimean fever’ but she closely watched the progress of the institution.

1855 November
To show the nation’s gratitude, a public subscription was organised to enable Florence to continue her reform of the civil hospitals of Britain.

Crimean War ends; returns to England; declines wedding proposal of Sir Harry Verney

1856 March
The war was over. An estimated 94000 men were sent to the war front, out of which almost 4000 died of battle wounds, 19000 died of diseases and 13000 were invalidated out of the Army.

1856 August
Florence returned from the Crimean War, four months after the peace treaty was signed, and she hid herself away from the public’s attention.
Florence returned to England as a national hero but she was deeply shocked by the mass death that took place right before her eyes because of poor sanitation. Therefore, she was determined to begin a campaign that would improve the quality of nursing in military hospitals. She started investigating before the Royal Commission on the Health of the Army and that resulted in the formation of the Army Medical College.

1856 November
Florence took a hotel room in London which became the centre for the campaign for a Royal Commission to investigate the health of the British Army.

When the Indian Mutiny broke out in 1857, she wished to come to India and help improve the sanitation facilities. Even though she could never come, she played an instrumental role in getting a Sanitary Department established by the Indian government.
Even when she was resting at home, she was still very much active in reforming and improving the health care system, interviewing politicians and distinguished visitors from her bed.

Publishes Notes on Hospitals and Notes on Nursing

For her contribution to Army statistics and comparative hospital statistics in 1860 Florence became the first woman to be elected a fellow of the Statistical Society.Florence Nightingale
Florence established the Nightingale Training School for Nurses at St Thomas’ Hospital, London. Florence’s best known work Notes on Nursing was published – this is still available today and has been translated into eleven languages. In total Florence published 200 books, reports and pamphlets during her lifetime.

Assists U.S. in organizing soldiers’ hospitals in Civil War

Settles in her Mayfair home in London

Florence devotes closer attention to the organisation of the Nightingale Training School and almost annually for the next 30 years she wrote a letter to the students giving advice and encouragement. On completion of their training, Florence gave them nurses books and invited them to tea.

Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria includes exhibition of Florence Nightingale’s nursing contributions

In recognition of Florence’s hard work, she received the Royal Red Cross from Queen Victoria.

Florence receives the Order of Merit – becoming the first woman to receive it.

1910 13 August
Florence dies at her home at 10 South Street, Mayfair, in the West End of London and was buried at St Margaret’s East Wellow, near her parent’s home, Embley Park in Hampshire.