Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Florence Nightingale's Graphical Presentation of Data

She's remembered as a nurse, public health advocate, and career-minded woman in a patriarchal society, but I was fascinated to learn that Florence Nightingale was a statistician!

Through her work as a nurse in the Crimean War, Florence Nightingale was a pioneer in establishing the importance of sanitation in hospitals. She meticulously gathered data on relating death tolls in hospitals to cleanliness, and, because of her novel methods of communicating this data, she was also a pioneer in applied statistics. We explore the work of Nightingale, and in particular focus on her use of certain graphs which, following misreading of her work, are now commonly known as 'coxcombs'.

The article includes links to several interesting sources on Florence Nightingale. I found this November 11 blog post from Understanding Uncertainty via Slashdot (/.), which pointed to Florence Nightingale: The passionate statistician By Julie Rehmeyer, published November 26, 2008 in Science News. This column didn't actually reference Understanding Uncertainty, except in an incorrect URL crediting a graphic, but the whole Science News column seems to be based on the Understanding Uncertainty posting.

Understanding Uncertainty is well worth a visit. Their mission is to help improve the way that uncertainty and risk are discussed in society, and show how probability and statistics can be both useful and entertaining! and I found plenty to entertain and instruct. Like Slow Food and Slow Bloggers, they even have a manifesto: Manifesto for a statistically literate public. They appear to be using Drupal in a fairly straightforward way, so I'm learning something from their site design, too.


Rick Lee said...

My wife works in infection control and epidemiology... I sent this link to her.

Reya Mellicker said...

Hey Rebecca!

thought about you when I read about the mopane worms.