Florence Nightingale was a pioneering nurse, writer and eminent statistician. She was born in Tuscany on 12 May 1820 and was the second daughter of William Edward and Frances Nightingale. Embley Park was the main Nightingale home from 1825.
Florence was tutored largely by her father in his library, an enlightened approach which was to hone her mind far more than was common amongst young women. What William Nightingale did not bargain for was that his younger daughter, unlike himself, was not content with the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake: it had to be put to some practical good. Specifically, as Florence later recorded, “On February 7th, 1837, God spoke to me and called me to His service.”
Determined to nurse, and reading voraciously to facilitate it, her parents tried unsuccessfully to divert her by sanctioning extended trips to Rome (1847-8), Germany, Egypt and Greece (1849-50). It was in Athens that she acquired her pet owl, Athena, in 1850. In 1853, William Nightingale granted Florence an allowance of £500 a year, and in August she was appointed Superintendant at the Institute for the Care of Sick Gentlewomen in Upper Harley Street, London.
It was the Crimean war in the 1850s during which Florence emerged as a national figure and Florence is now revered as the founder of modern nursing. She was skilled in mathematics and far ahead of her time in understanding the importance of health data. In acknowledging her contribution to health data, Florence was the first woman to be honoured by the Royal Statistical Society and the American Statistical Association made her an honorary member.
Florence stayed at Embley Park after her return from the Crimea for some time before returning for visits whilst living in London. After her death in London in 1910, her body was brought by train back to Romsey and her coffin carried from the station to the church at East Wellow where she is buried.