Date: August 9, 2013

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florence nightingale the the statistician

“The past informs the future”

Pearl Buck

Karl Pearson acknowledge Nightingale as a “Prophetess” in the development of applied statistics.

Florence Nightingale : A pioneer in the visual presentation of information .


A little known aspect of Florence Nightingale’s life is her achievement in the field of statistics. She invented a diagram she called the ‘coxcomb’ – better known today as the ‘pie chart’.
Florence had an excellent mind and insisted on taking classes with a science background for her learning needs exceeded counting linen, studying French, and enjoying theatre arts,, Florence was proficient in accounting, and quickly mastered statistical analysis. These were nontraditional educational experiences for a young woman of her standing, but as Florence made it clear to her mother on more than one occasion that ‘needlework’ was not what she wanted to do.

Florence was different – she dared to be different


PIE: Acronym for a process – oriented documented system.  The progress notes in the patient record use.

(P)    -        to define the particular problem;
(I)     -        to document intervention; and
(E)    -        to evaluate the patient outcome.

PIE charting integrates care planning with program notes.

Use of the pie chart – to depict changing patient outcomes.  She used this method in the military field hospital that she managed.
She also developed a Model Hospital Statistical Form for hospitals to collect and generate consistent data and statistics.
She was the first female member of the Royal Statistical Society. This membership was attained in 1858 and then in 1874 she became honorary member of the American Statistical Association.

Florence Nightingale revolutionized the idea that social phenomena could be objectively measured and subjected to mathematical analysis. She was an innovator in the collection, tabulation, interpreter, and graphical display of descriptive statistics.

The state of statistical science in Florence Nightingale time

There was a great revolution in this area in Nightingales time. In 1837 the General Registry Office at Somerset House, led by William Farr who later helped Florence with her Crimean Statistics, began to systematically record births, deaths, and marriages in the U.K. This gave people the opportunity to examine new cause and effect relationships using registration statistics.
Past of Florence Nightingales interest in statistics was related to her Unitarian faith. Unitarians believed that mankind has the power to continuously improve itself by observation and the use of reason.
After the Crimean was (1854-56), Florence Nightingale created a number of spectacular graphics designed to show how improvements is building hygiene could save many lives. These appear in 5 different documents:
1. Appendix 72 of the report of the Royal commission- by Florence Published 1858.
2. Mortality of the British Army’s 1858
3. A contribution to the Sanitary History of the British Army (1859)
4. Notes on matter affecting the health of the British Army 1858
5. England and Her Soldiers – 1859 written by Harriet Mefineau Florence encouraged Mesfineax to write about the war.

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