Recently I sent out a note that was well received by several people, so I reproduce it here:
There are a few friends I take long wandering conversations through a city with. Great conversation is always wonderful, but I tend to get distracted. A few years ago I a conversation with Juliette had turned to data flow. I had remembered something neat from when I was an undergrad and was getting ready to talk when Juliette saved me from being mowed down by a car. That was enough of a reset that I went blank and she moved on to something that seemed more interesting.
Somehow the lost thought returned. It stuck me that a larger group may be interested..
The Crimean Was is often remembered as a war of technological firsts … the first use of the telegraph, photography, railroads for troop and supply transport, a variety of weapon technologies and modern nursing practices (I’m sure the list is much longer). People today tend to remember the telegraph and nursing … the details of the war, who, why and how.. have faded into irrelevance for most of us. But mention nursing and Florence Nightingale comes to mind.
She was certainly a nurse, but she was also fantastic convincing the powers that be that soldiers were dying in hospitals at a greater rate than on the battlefield. It turns out she was an early data science person skilled at data collection, vetting, analysis and presentation. She was a pioneering figure of what some call data science these days. She invented some graphics techniques and (I think) coined the term applied statistics and managed to get it into the curriculum at Oxford and Cambridge.
The early 19th century saw an explosion in applied mathematics. She managed to catch the bug and took very detailed records in nursing homes, Her mathematical fame is from her rose chats - polar area diagrams. it was possible to compactly and clearly present dense information to people without deep statistical backgrounds - generals and politicians for example. She used applied math to properly focus resources…
so that’s it Juliette — Florence Nightingale’s most important contribution may have been being able to lobby and focus attention to the real problem that she could illuminate as an applied mathematician
a minute of searching produced one of her more famous charts: