Wednesday, April 1, 2020
A Florence Nightingale Shout Out
I do want to share what little more I know of her life and her mathematical background, but beyond that I'll direct you to the Wikipedia article on her for more about her life and to the MacTutor mathematical biography of her for more on her mathematics. As with other women of the 19th-century that I have posted about on this blog, she did have an interest in mathematics as a child and had to fight in order to be allowed to study it. Unlike Sophie Germain, Mary Fairfax Somerville, and Sonya Kovalevkaya, her parents did relent and provided her with a mathematics tutor. This tutor was none other than James Joseph Sylvester. Nightingale later tutored others in mathematics before becoming a nurse.
It was not only the study of mathematics that she had to fight for but also becoming a nurse. She had been born into a wealthy family, but she felt a calling from God to serve others through nursing. In those days, however, being a nurse was not a respectable pursuit. Because it involved touching bodies it was considered to be in the same category as being a sex worker. But she wasn't one to be dissuaded from her interests or her calling and she pushed forward to do what she felt she needed to do. In this way she saved thousands of lives, became the founder of modern nursing, and, I believe, has benefited us all.