Thursday, August 13, 2009

Florence Nightingale, data babe

Yesterday was the feast of Florence Nightingale, but today is the actual anniversary of her death 99 years ago and so it still seems appropriate to write about her. Not that it would stop me anyway, because she is amazing!

I had no idea how amazing until I started reading some biographical sketches yesterday.

Did you know, for example, that she was a mathematician? And that she invented the "polar-area diagram," better known to us as the pie chart? She did! And do you know how she used the polar area diagram? Why, she collected data on deaths due to various causes in the Crimean war and through that graphic representation of data created social change and reform that reduced casualty deaths from 42.7 percent to 2.2 percent! Here is her Diagram of the Causes of Mortality:

Is that not so cool? I am practically hyperventilating over her, here. I don't know about you, but I had this picture of sweet nurse Florence, tending patients. No, my friends. DATA! Data in the service of health and welfare, alongside the care and tending of souls. Oh, she is so my hero.


it's margaret said...

she was very cool indeed. the picture I have of her in my imagination is one I have held since childhood --I had a book of famous American women, and she was one, --with her arm held out defiantly against a soldier with a gun, while with her other hand she tended a wounded man on the ground.... way cool lady.

But the mathematician part --that is so way cool! Thanks for that!

Laura Toepfer said...

Way cool is so right.