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The untold story of how Florence Nightingale used data viz to save lives

Fast Company – “Florence Nightingale is well known as the founder of modern nursing. But after seeing the terrible conditions facing soldiers she treated during the Crimean War, she became a fierce public health advocate. And she harnessed new ways of showing data to do so. Nightingale was a lifelong information designer. As a child, she cataloged her seashell collection, and that was just the beginning. According to data designer RJ Andrews, Nightingale was always recording facts and figures. “She was mathematically literate as a foundation,” Andrews explains. Her ability to compose eye-catching, understandable, and persuasive charts that depicted things such as soldier mortality rates grabbed the attention of the queen and Parliament and pushed officials to require more sanitary treatment conditions, saving lives in the process. This lesser-known aspect of Nightingale’s life is part of a new book series currently seeking funding on Kickstarter called Information Graphic Visionaries. The collection of three books, edited by Andrews, tells the forgotten data-visualization stories of major historical figures. It includes Emma Willard, the 19th-century higher education advocate who created detailed maps; Étienne-Jules Marey, a French scientist who literally wrote the book on data visualization; and Florence Nightingale. Originally, Andrews had just planned to publish the book on Nightingale, but when he delayed the release date due to the pandemic, he saw an opportunity to tell a bigger story “celebrating spectacular creators who showed us how to better see the world.”…

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