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Image of the Week: Florence Nightingale’s Moccasins

10 Oct, 2014

L0057412 Florence Nightingale's moccasins, 1850-1856This week we’ve discovered some footwear which may have helped keep some very famous feet warm! These moccasins from the Science Museum are purported to have belonged to Florence Nightingale while she worked in Scutari military hospital, in what is now Istanbul, Turkey.

The “lady with the lamp” is commonly known for reducing the death rates on the wards – from a whopping 42%, down to 2% in two years. However there is still debate amongst historians as to her role in this, as well as her impact on modern healthcare. A traditional interpretation is that by enforcing cleanliness, altering diets and efficient running of the hospital, Nightingale reduced the death rate. However recent analysis suggests that her changes initially facilitated the spread of diseases such as Cholera, Dystentry and Typhoid. The death rate only dropped after a commission was sent out six months after her arrival to clean sewers and improve ventilation, preventing the spread of the water-borne diseases.

One thing that most agree on however is Nightingale’s meticulous records and use of data. Florence Nightingale was innovative in her use of statistics and an evidence base in nursing. She used visual representations of statistics to persuade decision makers– an early trendsetter for infographics!

Do you want to hear how Florence spoke as well as her choice of footwear? The Wellcome Collection has a recording of Florence Nightingale’s voice on display as part of their A-Z of the Human Condition which closes in just two days on Sunday the 12th of October – so head over quickly!

Image credit: The Science Museum, Wellcome Images

Wellcome Images is one of the world’s richest and most unusual collections, with themes ranging from medical and social history to contemporary healthcare and biomedical science. Over 100,000 high resolution images from our historical collections are now free to use under the Creative Commons-Attribution only (CC-BY) licence.

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