Florence Nightingale was born May 12, 1820 in the Italian city after which she was named. Her wealthy English parents made sure she and her sister received a classic education. When she was seventeen, Florence experienced a call from God to serve others and decided to become a nurse despite her parents' objections. In 1851 she went to Germany for nurse's training, then became a hospital superintendent.
When she heard about horrific medical conditions for soldiers in the Crimean War, Nightingale trained and took 38 volunteer nurses to Turkey in 1854. After three years toiling on the battlefield, Florence returned to England and published a thousand page report that led to the overhaul of military medical care.
In 1859 Nightingale opened a school for nurses at St. Thomas Hospital. The next year, she published Notes on Nursing, which is still considered a classic text. In 1869 she founded the Women's Medical College with Elizabeth Blackwell.
For the last fourteen years of her life, Nightingale was confined to bed and died on August 13, 1910. Responding to her call from God, she had set high standards for nursing as a profession, inspired others to found the Red Cross,