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Introduction

A Legend Carved in Stone

Florence Nightingale in front of a Diagram
Florence Nightingale in front of Diagram of the Cause of Mortality in the Army of the East". Credits: Florence Nightingale Institute, Culemborg, The Netherlands www.fnl.nl

Whoever discusses the history of nursing cannot neglect Florence Nightingale. Whoever wants to know something about Florence Nightingale gets access to some 500,000 Google hits on the monitor. Her popularity as the founder of modern nursing is unassailable. Among other things, her birthday, 12 May, features prominently on the agenda as International Nurses Day. Every two years, nurses can compete for the prestigious Florence Nightingale Medal, awarded by the International Red Cross. Her image is featured on bills, china, postcards, pencils and cups. Museums, institutions and aeroplanes carry her name. Each year in the days surrounding the anniversary of her death on 13 August, there are church services in her honour and she is regularly honoured with new statues in prominent places. Finally, there is a continuous flow of movies, documentaries and books on her life, with as the latest addition the Collected Works of Florence Nightingale, in 16 hefty volumes of nearly 900 pages each, edited by Lynn McDonald. At this moment, the digitisation of Nightingale’s enormous correspondence is in progress. Who was this woman and why do we keep her legacy alive?