Florence Nightingale (12 May 1820 – 13 August 1910) was a British social reformer, writer, statistician, and most famously, the founder of modern nursing.
Florence, the daughter of an affluent, upper-class English couple, was named after the city of her birth, Florence, in Italy. During her childhood, she travelled extensively. She grew into an attractive, slim, determined and opinionated woman. Florence was courted by a poet. After nine years, she finally rejected her suitor, deciding to dedicate her life to nursing. At this time, the nursing profession was considered a lowly profession, unsuited to educated and gentile ladies, however Florence was determined and would not be discouraged or diverted.
Her father provided her with an annual income of £500 per year, which was sufficient in those days to live comfortably. Florence undertook some medical training and then began to train other volunteer nurses. Shocked by the conditions faced by soldiers in the Crimean war, Florence arrived there in 1854 with a squad of thirty-eight nurses she had trained and fifteen catholic nuns. They found soldiers were dying more from infections like typhus, typhoid, cholera and dysentery, than from their battle wounds. Florence is credited with organising the first prefab hospital which was built in England and then shipped to the Dardanelles. Whilst caring for the sick and wounded soldiers, Florence became known as the ‘Lady with the Lamp’ as she made tireless rounds of the wards late at night. In 1855 the Nightingale fund was established to train nurses. This enabled the Nightingale Training School to be established at St. Thomas’ Hospital, London. The first Nightingale trained nurses began work on the sixteenth May 1859. Florence’s book, Notes on Nursing, published in 1859 provided the foundation of the curriculum. Florence is regarded as the founder of modern nursing. In recognition of her pioneering work, the Nightingale pledge, a modified version of the Hippocratic oath is taken by new nurses. The Florence Nightingale Medal, the highest international distinction a nurse can achieve, was named in her honour, and the annual International Nurses Day is celebrated on her birthday. Her social reforms included improving healthcare for all sections of British society, advocating better hunger relief in India, helping to abolish prostitution laws which were harsh for women, and expanding the acceptable forms of female participation in the workforce.
Nightingale was a prodigious and versatile writer. In her lifetime, much of her published work was concerned with expanding medical knowledge amongst the working classes. Many of her tracts were written in easy to understand English, so that they could easily be followed by those with poor literary skills. She was also a pioneer in data visulisation effectively using graphs to present statistical data. Much of her writing, including her extensive work on religion and mysticism, has only been published posthumously.
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The last German military communications decoded at Bletchley Park in World War Two have been revealed to mark the seventy-fifth anniversary of Victory in Europe Day.
In 1944, a German military radio network, codenamed BROWN, had extended across Europe sending reports about the development of experimental weapons. In May 1945 the base was making its last stand at Cuxhaven, a town on Germany’s North Sea Coast.
As the Allies entered the town and closed in on the radio operator’s position, Lieutenant Kunkel signed off to any colleagues who might still be listening.
His words - broadcasted at 07:35 on 7 May - would be the last message from the German military intercepted by codebreakers at Bletchley Park before the surrender.
"British troops entered Cuxhaven at 1400 on 6 May. From now on all radio traffic will cease - wishing you all the best. Closing down for ever - all the best - goodbye".
Bletchley Park's war-time work breaking enemy codes - most famously those made by the Enigma machine - was kept entirely secret, not just during the war, but for many years afterwards.
The cracking of the Enigma code is now often compared to a relay race. The first relay was carried out by the Polish Cipher Bureau who started the first ever code-breaking course. They recruited a timid mathematician Marian Rejewski, who became the first man ever to break the code. Material to his achievement was information obtained by French agent Captain Bertrand through espionage. The Cipher Bureau passed the secret of how to break the Enigma code to the British and French just before Poland was invaded in 1939. The Poles continued their code breaking work in difficult conditions in France until they were forced to flee from the Gestapo after the whole of France was occupied after the North Africa landings in 1942. Thereafter the bulk of the code-breaking work was continued at Bletchley Park in England and in the United States.
The intelligence produced by cracking the Enigma code has been credited with shortening the war by at least two years and saving many thousands of lives.
After Germany surrendered, Victory in Europe Day was declared on the Eighty of May and has been celebrated on that day ever since. Many European countries have a public holiday on the eighth of May. Germany made the day a public holiday for the first time in 2020.
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