Did Florence Nightingale have a Dark Side?

2023-12-19 00:00:00 / episode: 337



Florence Nightingale was a famous nurse from the 19th century.

She's famous for improving the medical conditions dramatically in hospitals in battle situations.

But was there another side to Florence Nightingale?

As is often the case, famous people often have more complex sides to them.

She might have had a darker side that history tends to ignore.

Welcome to the Les Perras podcast episode 337. Today’s topic is Florence Nightingale.


Florence Nightingale was an active nurse in the Crimean War.

She heard that the conditions in the battlefield hospitals were terrible, and she volunteered to get sent there to help improve things.

There were high death rates in the hospitals, and they were much higher than in other situations because the British did not have good supply lines yet.

It's true that Florence Nightingale had a strong hand in reducing the death rates in hospitals.

One of the principle ways she did this was by keeping detailed records and good statistics, responding to those statistics, and trying different things.

darker side.

She had a rival in Sir John Hall.

He was the chief medical officer for the British at the time of the Crimean War. Sir John Hall wrote a letter that was only discovered recently.

The contents of the letter lead us to believe that Florence Nightingale was not such a wonderful person after all.

He asserted that she was ambitious.

not ambitious in the good sense of the word, but in the darker sense of the word.

She struggled for power in the hospitals, and she didn't care about other people in her quest for power, according to Sir John Hall.

She was disrespectful too other staff and subordinates in the hospitals.

She would readily get rid of people that she considered lazy.

There were reports that many nurses did not want to be assigned to her ward.

How Big an Impact?

Finally, there is also evidence that she didn't dramatically reduce the death rates right from the get-go.

In fact, some research has suggested that the death rate went up after she arrived at the hospital, only to fall dramatically after a few years of her presence there. This is a difficult point too consider.

The rise in death rates could have been due to her arrival, or it could have been due to other factors.

But Still

At the end of the day, Lawrence Nightingale still deserves a place in history, and she still deserves a lot of the glory.

On the other hand, it's good to view these people as whole coins with two sides.

Rather than glorifying them and making them greater than humans, we should see their strong points and their weak points together.

I think that helps inspire us all to be better humans in general if we know that we don't have to be perfect.