It is Florence Nightingale’s birthday today! Revered as the “founder of modern nursing,” Florence was born in Florence, Italy on May 12, 1820.

Florence was known for introducing the need for sanitation while caring for wounded soldiers in the Crimean War, saving several lives, training nurses and cleaning hospitals. She died in London at the age of 90 on Aug. 13, 1910.

Following are some facts about the pioneer of modern nursing gathered from the BBC, Britannica and Primary Facts:

  • Florence was born to a wealthy British family. Her father William Edward Nightingale was a rich banker. Florence was named after the Italian city Florence.
  • The family moved back to England in 1821 and Florence was raised in the family's homes at Embley, Hampshire and Lea Hurst, Derbyshire.
  • She was a brilliant student and her father guided her in subjects such as history, philosophy, and literature. Florence was known to be an excellent student of mathematics and languages.
  • She was fluent in English, French, German, and Italian.
  • Florence was known to have strong religious beliefs and at the age of 16, she was reported to have one of several “calls from God.”
  • Florence was never married. At the age of 22, a young writer proposed marriage to her. Florence took seven years to consider the proposal and ultimately refused.
  • Florence’s parents were shocked when she told them of her intention of becoming a nurse. During the Victorian period, women from poor families would take up nursing. Hospitals were known to be dirty and doctors would operate on patients without anesthesia, who would often die. Given those conditions, her parents did not want her to be a nurse.
  • In 1851, Florence traveled to Germany, to a Christian nursing school for women to train for three months.
  • She got her first job in a hospital in London in 1853. The job however was unpaid. Florence still managed to — with her own money — make several useful changes in the hospital.
  • The Crimean War broke out in October 1853 and on Nov. 4, 1854, Florence and 38 other nurses were called to Scutari, an area in the city of Constantinople. The hospital Florence and the nurses were assigned to was reported to be dirty and unhygienic.
  • Florence made several improvements to the hospital including. She had the drains cleaned, improved the drinking water supply, stocked up the hospital with clean sheets and bandages, started a nursing timetable and ensured the soldiers were looked after and cared for properly.
  • Due to her work at the Scutari hospital and the changes she made there, Florence became popular. Soldiers at the hospital began calling her the “Lady with the Lamp” because she would visit the hospital wards at night, carrying a lamp, to check on her patients.
  • After the Crimean War ended in 1856, Florence returned to England, where she became a national heroine. She received several letters from the public thanking her for her work during the war.
  • Florence was invited by Queen Victoria to meet her in Balmoral, Scotland. The two discussed Florence’s experiences in Scutari and how military hospitals could be improved.