Florence Nightingale lived in a wealthy London house. She was home-schooled by her father. He taught her mathematics, philosophy, history and many languages (German, Italian, French and Latin). Florence was very social when she was young; she was always going out to parties and balls. When she turned seventeen, she decided she was bored with her life, and wanted to do something more challenging. She had always had a medical interest, and sympathy for the sick. After she had announced to her family that she wished to become a nurse, her mother was horrified, and refused to accept the idea. Florence obeyed her mother for sixteen years - but kept up her interest in medicine. In 1850 she did a training course for nurses, and by 1853 she graduated. She was 32 years old.
She then became head of a Women's Hospital - the other nurses and doctors were shocked when Florence instituted reforms, and listen to the patient's complaints.
She also gave some of the younger nurses some basic training.
The Crimean War broke out in 1854. France, Italy, Turkey and England were fighting Russia over control of the Black Sea. Sidney Herbert - British War Secretary - heard about the dreadful conditions at the hospital in Scutari and convinced Florence to go there and take care of the wounded men. Florence's friends were discouraging, but Florence was dedicated to her work, and decided to go. She rounded up thirty-eight other nurses to accompany her to Scutari.
On their arrival to the hospital, they found it in an appalling state. Rats were crawling around, the sewer pipes were clogged and over flowing, there were dead bodies lying on the ground, and the screams of injured men echoed off the walls. Florence found that there were no lights, candles, bandages,