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The Collected Works of Florence Nightingale

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2010 marked the 100th anniversary of Nightingale’s death, but there was very little celebration of her life and accomplishments. It was also the 150th anniversary of the publication of her most famous book, Notes on Nursing, and the founding of her school. By contrast, 2009 marked the 150th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species, which was hugely celebrated.

Nursing historians have had an ongoing debate on Nightingale’s achievements: “Was there a Nightingale system of training, and if so, did it have any significant influence on the development of nursing in the 19th century?” It is hard to imagine a comparable question being asked of Darwin’s achievements. Why?

Nightingale was always controversial and always had detractors, but from 1982 her reputation has been attacked. Below are a series of exchanges with Nightingale critics and print or broadcast media, questioning and rebutting some of these attacks.

There are sections within the Collected Works volumes themselves with refutations; see Appendix B: The Rise and Fall of Florence Nightingale’s Reputation, in Life and Family 1:843-47; Appendix B: Secondary Sources on Nightingale and Women, in Women, 8:1039-53; The Revisionist Literature on Nightingale, in Extending Nursing 12:31-36; Secondary Sources on Nightingale and the Crimean War, in The Crimean War 14:32-40.

Nightingale Society

A whole new society has been established to defend Nightingale against the attacks and circulating misinformation. See its website:

There is now so much misinformation about Mary Seacole in circulation, even the proposal that she was Nightingale’s equal in establishing nursing, or her better, so that she should replace Nightingale as the major founder. A website is now available with refutations of the misinformation in circulation. See: