Nightingale 2020: The bicentenary of our first female fellow

This year, on 12 May 2020, the RSS is celebrating the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth.

Born on 12 May 1820, Florence Nightingale was the first female member of the RSS, having joined the Society (then the London Statistical Society) in 1858, just two years after her return from the Crimean War. She remained a member until her death more than 50 years later.

While Nightingale is best known worldwide for revolutionising nursing and healthcare through her campaigning for health reform, her far-reaching recommendations were based on impressive statistical work and popularised through pioneering data visualisation.

Sadly, the majority of our Nightingale-focused events have had to be postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, there are a number of activities still going ahead:

  • Significance magazine has published a special edition on Nightingale, with a collection of articles about the renowned nurse, statistician, and reformer. It includes articles on her data visualisation work as well as interviews with ‘Modern Nightingales’ – statisticians, including RSS President Deborah Ashby, who have been inspired by her work and influence.
  • For 2020 the RSS has, in conjunction with the Health Foundation, launched the Florence Nightingale Award for Excellence in Healthcare Data Analytics, aimed at practitioners whose applied analysis has led to better outcomes for patients and the healthcare system in the UK. The winners will be announced later this year.
  • Our Young Statistician’s section has launched a competition, for both children and adults, asking people to enter their interpretation of Florence’s famous Coxcomb.
  • The Florence Nightingale Museum has a special online exhibition, ‘Statistician and Evidence-Based Healthcare’ which includes a page on her role at the Royal Statistical Society – plus her nomination form (pictured) to the Statistical Society of London (which later changed its name to the Royal Statistical Society). Nightingale was the first female fellow of the Society, joining in 1858 and remaining a member until her death over 50 years later. The signatories on her form include the renowned statistician William Farr, with whom she worked on several important projects during her career.
  • Our Sheffield Local Group are holding a webinar on 14 May on ‘Florence Nightingale: The Passionate Statistician’, with Professor of Medical Statistics, Steven Julious.

Follow #Nightingale2020 to join in the conversation.

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