History of the RSM
Feature of the month - August 2008
The Royal Society of Medicine Library numbers among its treasures several books by Florence Nightingale (1820 – 1910) surely one of the most eminent figures of the nineteenth century and a name known to most. Her reports from the Crimea of the poor sanitary conditions for wounded soldiers, most of them dying from infections contracted in hospital than from their injuries on the battlefield, drew attention to the prime importance of hospital design and hygiene. With her team of nurses, she set about improving conditions and successfully reduced the mortality rate among the wounded soldiers in their care at the Selimiye Barracks in Scutari.
Following her return to England in 1856, she set out to promote her ideas on nursing and on hospital hygiene and design. To this end, she published several books on these subjects.
The library's copy of her 1871 book on Lying-in Institutions is inscribed by her to Sir James Paget, the surgical pathologist who, from 1875 to 1877, served as President of the Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society.
The rarest item by Miss Nightingale held by the library is her Notes on Matters Affecting the Health, Efficiency, and Hospital Administration of the British Army, founded chiefly on the experience of the late war, published in 1858.
This book was ready for press in 1857 but, unwilling to pre-empt the findings of the Royal Commission on the Army, Nightingale sent out copies of her book only following the publication of the Royal Commission and then only to those she felt might be able to influence professional opinion. The book was never presented to the public and is the rarest and least-known of Florence Nightingale's publications.