POSTPONED: Florence Nightingale and her team: Getting the statistics right, getting them to work for good

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History of Statistics Section

Monday 23 March 2020, 05:00pm - 07:00pm

Location Royal Statistical Society, 12 Errol St, London EC1Y 8LX

About the event:

This paper will show how Nightingale and her team (she always worked with experts) did the effective analysis of the high death rates of the Crimean War – compared with that produced by the Army Medical Department of the War Office. It will compare her iconic polar area charts with the charts produced by the Army Medical Department. It will show how the Sanitary Commission (whose leaders became her allies post-Crimea) made the reforms that saved lives, not recognized by the official department.

Her team focussed on basic sanitary reform (removing tonnes of “filth,” faeces and dead horses) while the officials published graphs of barometric pressure and temperature.

The paper will show, as well, how the British were successful not only in bringing down, dramatically, their death rates, in the second year of the Crimean War, while those for the French Army rose. These differences, indeed, can be seen as the result of a controlled experiment, for the two armies faced the same conditions.

The paper will go on to show how Nightingale and her fellow reformers used statistics to improve life in India, noting her very different idea of empire and responsibility.
Speaker: Lynn McDonald is the director of the 16-volume Collected Works of Florence Nightingale, 2001-2012. She did her PhD at the London School of Economics, is a Member of the Order of Canada and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and is now a professor emerita at the University of Guelph, Ontario. She has also been a successful health care reformer. As an MP she authored Canada’s Non-smokers’ Health Act, 1988, the first legislation in the world to establish smoke-free work and public places.

Registration alongside tea and coffee from 4.30 pm.
Attendance is free and open to all, whether fellows of the RSS or not, but pre-registration is required.


The talk will be followed by a drinks reception at 6.30pm

Organiser Name Peter Smith

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