It's 150 years since Florence Nightingale returned from the Crimean War and to mark this anniversary, a rare previously unseen photograph of the ultimate Night Nurse is due to go on display at the Florence Nightingale Museum . The picture was taken by amateur photographer William Slater in 1858, two years after her return from the Crimea and shows the Lady of the Lamp relaxing with a book at her family home in Embley Park, Hampshire.
The camera-shy workaholic led a team of 38 female nurses in the field hospitals of the Crimea, working in atrocious conditions and with medical practices that still considered brandy a good enough anaesthetic for amputations and that knocking the rusty bits off knives before operating was an excellent standard of hygiene. Florence Nightingale used her religiousness and general self-righteousness to discourage doctors and nurses from bedding down for the night with their patients when beds were short and established the now universally held belief that having a drink to steady the nerves before a big operation is no good to anyone, doctor or patient alike.
Once home from the Crimea, she continued to change medical and nursing practices for a further 30 years but was famously against celebrity status as she was reluctant to draw attention away from the work she was doing. She probably would have hated to have a whole museum devoted to herself and would no doubt disapprove of displaying a picture of her in such a relaxed state... but it's her own fault for having been so damn committed to transforming the role of nursing and improving healthcare across the country. She's been on banknotes. She deserves to be - otherwise getting your tonsils out would still involve a drunk doctor throwing glasses of brandy at you before attacking your inflamed bits with a hastily wiped down pair of gardening shears.
The Florence Nightingale Museum is open Mondays to Sundays, admission fees apply. For more information about the collection and the museum, go to the website here .