Our county has been home to many individuals who have gone on to make significant contributions across the world, few more so 60 than ‘The Lady with the Lamp’, Florence Nightingale.

It was entirely typical of the woman that when Florence Nightingale – Longfellow’s famed ‘Lady with the Lamp’ – returned to Derbyshire from the Crimean War in August 1856, she shunned the grand civic reception which had been planned for her in London.

This was certainly not the sort of thing that this unassuming pioneer of modern nursing wanted, nor would she have enjoyed.

Great British Life: Florence Nightingale is widely regarded as the founder of the nursing profession Florence Nightingale is widely regarded as the founder of the nursing profession

So instead, she caught the train to Ambergate, and this lonely figure was to be seen gamely carrying her luggage up the three miles back to her home at Lea Hurst, Holloway.

Florence Nightingale gained her now famous nickname of ‘The Lady with the Lamp’ from the wounded soldiers during the Crimean War (1853-56) for her night-time rounds of the wards at Scutari, near Istanbul, Turkey, having arrived in the country in early November 1854.

Appalled at the conditions in the filthy and unhygienic barracks when she arrived, she revolutionised the conditions at the hospital, undoubtedly saving many lives.

The Nightingale Pledge taken by all new nurses and the Florence Nightingale Medal, the highest international distinction for a nurse, were named in her honour in recognition of her pioneering work in nursing, and the annual International Nurses Day is still celebrated on her birthday, May 12.

The multi-talented Nightingale was also a pioneer in statistics, representing her analyses in graphical forms to assist in the drawing up of conclusions and actions from data.

She is famous for her use of the polar area diagram, also called the Nightingale rose diagram (equivalent to a modern circular histogram); a diagram still used today in data visualisation.

Florence Nightingale was born in 1820 in the family’s villa in Florence, Tuscany, and she was named after the city of her birth.

The family moved back to England in 1821, and Nightingale was brought up in the family homes at Embley, Hampshire, and Lea Hurst, in Derbyshire.

READ MORE: Lea Hurst - The restoration of Florence Nightingale’s Derbyshire home

Great British Life: Lea Hurst, the childhood home Florence Nightingale loved Photo: Phil Richards, FlickrLea Hurst, the childhood home Florence Nightingale loved Photo: Phil Richards, Flickr

And Derbyshire undoubtedly had a profound effect on the young Florence Nightingale, who, as well as once writing that ‘it breaks my heart to leave Lea Hurst’, also wrote vividly and nostalgically about her memories of her early years.

'The greatest delight of those childhood days was to visit my dear old Aunt (Elizabeth Evans) in the (Derwent) Valley,’ she wrote.

‘Aunt Evans was the very emblem of tenderness and sweetness... the gentlest of God's creatures... She lived in the most perfect of Derbyshire old houses, with its paved terrace and flights of stone steps overlooking the dashing river... old mullioned windows, with a Virginia creeper over its roof.'

Her parents were William Edward Nightingale, born William Edward Shore, and Frances Nightingale (née Smith).

William’s mother Mary was the niece of Peter Nightingale, from whom William inherited his estate at Lea Hurst, assuming the name and arms of Nightingale. Nightingale’s strictly Unitarian father was largely responsible for her education.

As a young woman, while her demeanour often appeared severe, Nightingale was described as attractive, slender, and graceful.

Her most avid suitor was the politician and poet Richard Monckton Milnes, but after a nine-year courtship, she rejected him, believing that marriage would interfere with her ability to follow her passionate calling of nursing.

While holidaying in Rome in 1847, she met Sidney Herbert, a politician who had been Secretary of War between 1845 and 1846.

Herbert and Nightingale became lifelong friends and when he became Secretary of War again during the Crimean War, he was instrumental in facilitating Nightingale’s pioneering nursing work in Crimea.

After she returned to Britain, Nightingale began collecting evidence before the Royal Commission on the Health of the Army, which unsurprisingly found that most of the soldiers at the hospital were killed by poor sanitary conditions.

This experience influenced her later career when she advocated sanitary living conditions as of greatest importance.

Consequently, she reduced peacetime deaths in the army and turned her attention to the sanitary design of hospitals and the introduction of sanitation in working-class homes.

While she was still in the Crimea in 1855, during a public meeting to recognise Nightingale for her work in the war, the Nightingale Fund was established for the training of nurses.

Sidney Herbert became honorary secretary, and Nightingale had £45,000 at her disposal from the fund to set up the first nursing school, the Nightingale Training School, at St Thomas’ Hospital, London, (now part of King’s College), in July 1860.

The first trained Nightingale nurses began work in May 1865 at the Liverpool Workhouse Infirmary.

In 1859, Nightingale had written Notes on Nursing, which served as the basis of the curriculum at the Nightingale and other nursing schools and even today, Notes on Nursing is still considered the classic introduction to the nursing profession, which Nightingale spent the rest of her life promoting and organising.

Nightingale wrote: ‘Every day sanitary knowledge, or the knowledge of nursing, or in other words, of how to put the constitution in such a state as that it will have no disease, or that it can recover from disease, takes a higher place. It is recognised as the knowledge which everyone ought to have – distinct from medical knowledge, which only a profession can have.’

Great British Life: A dedication to Derbyshire's Florence Nightingale in Derby Cathedral Photo: Peter, FlickrA dedication to Derbyshire's Florence Nightingale in Derby Cathedral Photo: Peter, Flickr

One of Nightingale’s most important achievements was the introduction of trained nurses into the workhouse system from the 1860s.

This meant that sick paupers were no longer being cared for by other, able-bodied paupers, but by properly trained nursing staff.

According to Caroline Worthington, director of the Florence Nightingale Museum at St Thomas’ Hospital: ‘When she started out there was no such thing as nursing… Hospitals were places of last resort where the floors were laid with straw to soak up the blood.

‘Florence transformed nursing when she got back (from Crimea). She had access to people in high places and she used it to get things done. Florence was stubborn, opinionated, and forthright but she had to be those things in order to achieve all that she did.’

In 1883, Nightingale became the first recipient of the Royal Red Cross. In 1904, she was appointed a Lady of the Order of St John, and in 1907, she became the first woman to be awarded the Order of Merit. The following year she was given the Honorary Freedom of the City of London.

From 1857, Nightingale became frequently bedridden and suffered from depression. It is believed that she suffered from an extreme form of brucellosis, the effects of which only began to lift in the early 1880s.

Despite her symptoms, she remained an active social reformer. Even during her bedridden years, she also did pioneering work in the field of hospital planning, and her work spread across Britain and throughout the rest of the world.

Although much of Nightingale’s work improved the lot of women everywhere, controversially, Nightingale believed that women were not as capable as men.

She criticised early women’s rights activists and preferred the friendship of powerful men. She often referred to herself as ‘a man of action’ and ‘a man of business.’

Great British Life: Stained glass window at St Peter's Church, Derby, with Florence Nightingale top leftStained glass window at St Peter's Church, Derby, with Florence Nightingale top left

Florence Nightingale died peacefully in her sleep in her home in Mayfair, London, on August 13, 1910, at the age of 90.

The offer of burial in Westminster Abbey was declined by her relatives and she is buried in the churchyard of St Margaret’s Church in East Wellow, Hampshire, close to the former family home at Embley. Her memorial simply carries just her initials and dates of birth and death.

A statue of Florence Nightingale by Arthur George Walker stands in Waterloo Place, Westminster, and there are three statues of her in Derby.

One is outside the Derbyshire Royal Infirmary (DRI), one in St Peter’s Street, and one above the Nightingale-Macmillan Continuing Care Unit opposite the DRI.

A memorial stained glass window, commissioned for inclusion in the DRI chapel in the late 1950s, is now repositioned in St Peter’s Church, Derby.

As the statues suggest, Nightingale remains much heralded in our county. In 2010, to mark the 100th anniversary of her death, the Florence Nightingale Derbyshire Association held an exhibition celebrating her life, held at the Gothic Warehouse at Cromford Wharf, part of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site.

Finally, it seemed entirely appropriate that the temporary (but unused) hospitals set up to deal with the recent coronavirus pandemic were named after Holloway’s Florence Nightingale, who almost singlehandedly transformed nursing to the efficient and professional vocation it is today.