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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE'S CONTRIBUTION TO MATHEMATICS


The rare photograph of Florence Nightingale was taken by Lizzie Caswall Smith in 1910 .The black and white image of the silver-haired nursing pioneer shows her in the imposing bedroom of her home just off London's Park Lane, before her death in 1910 at the age of 90.


Florence Nightingale is most remembered as a pioneer of nursing and a reformer of hospital sanitation methods. For most of her ninety years, Nightingale pushed for reform of the British military health-care system and with that the profession of nursing started to gain the respect it deserved.

During the American Civil War, Nightingale was a consultant on army health to the United States government. She also responded to a British war office request for advice on army medical care in Canada. Her mathematical activities included ascertaining "the average speed of transport by sledge" and calculating "the time required to transport the sick over the immense distances of Canada."

Unknown to many, Florence Nightingale is credited with developing a form of the pie chart now known as the polar area diagram, or occasionally the Nightingale rose diagram, equivalent to a modern circular histogram to dramatize the needless deaths caused by unsanitary conditions and the need for reform during the Crimean War .


The legend reads:

The Areas of the blue, red, & black wedges are each measured from the
centre as the common vertex.

The blue wedges measured from the centre of the
circle represent area for area the deaths from Preventable or Mitigable
Zymotic diseases, the red wedges measured from the centre the deaths from
wounds, & the black wedges measured from the centre the deaths from all
other causes.

The black line across the red triangle in Nov. 1854 marks the
boundary of the deaths from all other causes during the month.

In October 1854, & April 1855, the black area coincides with the red, in January
& February 1855,(*) the blue coincides with the black.

The entire areas may be compared by following the blue, the red, & the black lines
enclosing them.



With her analysis, Florence Nightingale revolutionized the idea that social phenomena could be objectively measured and subjected to mathematical analysis.

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