At the age of 17, Florence received a calling from God, and although she persisted in her quest to study nursing, her parents refused permission for their daughter to involve herself in an occupation that was seen to be peopled by the dissolute and immoral. Florence’s chance to escape came when the Crimean War broke out and Sir Sydney Herbert, Secretary at War, asked her to take a number of nurses to Scutari. After just six months she returned home to lead the life of an invalid. For want of a better name, Crimean fever was diagnosed but it was probably brucellosis, a debilitating illness contracted by drinking untreated milk.
So much is already known about Florence Nightingale that it seems unlikely that any further investigation can shed more light on this Victorian icon. Mark Bostridge, however, gives a new, unbiased account of the character that was Florence Nightingale. Fanatical pioneer of cleanliness and fresh air, arrogant and opinionated she undoubtedly was, nevertheless, she got things done.