Monday, April 4, 2016


The Florence Nightingale story is well known, at least in broad strokes, and her reputation as a doer of good is well deserved.

It seems she also was a poet, perhaps despite herself.

You may know of her path-breaking work in nursing during the Crimean War (1853-56). She was a notable champion of high-quality nursing and medical care. Almost three-quarters of eight British regiments died from disease during a six-month period during the war. Nightingale learned that in peacetime British soldiers had a mortality rate 100 percent higher than that of civilians. Hygiene and sanitation wasn’t the best part of being a Tommy in the 19th century. Some folks in high places didn’t want to hear that particular story.

Nightingale was a prodigious writer, and she broke new ground by working closely with a statistician to prepare an 830-page report on the Army Medical Department for Queen Victoria. She created some graphic representation of data to heighten its clarity and impact for the queen.

Nightingale wrote that her resort to graphic “visualization” was intended to affect “thro’ the Eyes what we fail to convey to the public through their word-proof ears.”

“…word-proof ears” is a deliciously poetic way to describe the tendency of some folks to not hear what is new or not entirely welcome.

I suspect that those who enjoy poetry tend not to have “word-proof ears.”

Sadly, such ears are all too familiar among the attributes of the human condition.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

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