Florence Nightingale: Chart Star

August 13th, 2010 by Catherine McIntyre, Archives Assistant
Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale

I’m a frequent visitor to my local National Trust property, Claydon House; whose biggest claim to fame is its connection with Britain’s most famous nurse Florence Nightingale. The house was built and owned by the Verney family and from 1827 to 1894 was residence to Sir Harry Verney, Liberal MP for Buckingham. Sir Harry was married to Parthenope Nightingale, sister of Florence, and was nicknamed ‘The MP for Florence Nightingale’ due to his support for her causes and his regular raising of issues in parliament on her prompting. Nightingale spent a lot of her later years at Claydon, having her own room – arguably the best room – and becoming instrumental in fundraising for and re-designing the local Royal Buckinghamshire Hospital (where my mum was born!).

Today marks the 100th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s death; the Trust have been holding commemorative events all year at Claydon and this prompted me to think of our Nightingale collection here at LSE Archives (NIGHTINGALE). Twenty-two of the twenty-eight volumes are works by Nightingale, the rest feature contributions, or were by owned, by her.

nightingale2 copy

Diagram of the Causes of Mortality (NIGHTINGALE/4)

One of the most interesting aspects of the works, which you can see in the above image, are the inclusion of the statistical charts she invented and used to demonstrate the large number of soldiers in the Crimean War who were dying from infection, compared to those dying from combat wounds or other causes. We won’t go into the interpretation of them, there’s a lot of debate surrounding the accurate representation of data – none of which I understand! We like them because they are further proof of Nightingale’s forward-thinking nature and her determination to get her important message across. That, and they’re quite pretty. Both of which are fitting reasons, if we needed any more, to remember her on this important anniversary.

If you’re interested in more charts and diagrams, we also have a copy of William Playfair’s ’The Commercial and Political Atlas’ in our rare book collection (OX1801/6). Playfair is credited with inventing line, bar and pie charts and the diagrams contained within his work are fascinating to look at.


Chart of the Expenditure of the British Army 1700s

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One Response to “Florence Nightingale: Chart Star”

  1. Catherine McIntyre, Archives Assistant says:

    The Guardian have a good article explaining Florence’s charts a bit further, with some modern updates: http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2010/aug/13/florence-nightingale-graphics

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