Florence Nightingale was born in Florence, Italy, on May 12, 1820. Named after her birthplace, Florence spent most of her childhood in London, Derbyshire, and Hampshire. Although she didn't attend school, her father taught her well, so well in fact, that she could do mathematics, history, and philosophy, and spoke Greek, French, Italian, Latin, and German.
On February 7, 1837, Florence heard the voice of God, telling her that she had a mission. However, Florence had no idea what that mission was. She found out in 1846 when a friend sent her a book called the Year Book of the Institution of Protestant Deaconesses, which taught her elementary nursing techniques. In 1852 in London, she was given the position of superintendent of the Institution for the Care of Sick Gentlewomen. However, Florence wanted more.
In March 1854, the Crimean war began. Florence volunteered as a nurse with a group of other women and left her home on October 21, 1854. On November 5, 1854, she arrived in Barrack Hospital at Scutari. There, the condition of the facilities were inadequate, but Florence was able to make do. She came up with 200 scrubbing brushes, washed patients clothes, and supplied the hospital, among other things. She would personally attend to every patient and did not allow any other woman in the wards after 8:00 p.m. Florence would check on and comfort the patients at night, walking the halls with a lamp. It was because of this that the soldiers gave her the nickname, "The Lady with the Lamp."
In May 1855, Florence went to the battlefront in Crimea, but she became sick with the Crimean fever and was told she only held authority in Barrack Hospital. Still, on March 16, 1856, she became widely known as superintendent of the Female Nursing Establishment of the Military Hospitals.
After all her patients had been released, Florence returned to England and even consulted with Queen Victoria in October 1856. From this meeting came a promise for a royal commission from the Queen. This royal commission, the Royal Commission on the Health of the Army, was created in 1857, and this commission also formed an Army Medical School in 1857 as well. Another royal commission was created as well in 1859, and this commission established a Sanitary Department in 1868.
In 1860, Florence created the Nightingale School for Nurses at St. Thomas' Hospital. This was the first of its kind, and Florence reformed the workhouses and trained the midwives and nurses herself. However, her health began to fail her. She had been an invalid starting in 1857, and in 1901, she became completely blind. Florence died in London, England, on August 13, 1910. She had been asked, previously, if she wanted to be buried in Westminster Abbey, but she declined the offer.