Reading List

The Harold B. Lee Library has a number of resources for those interested in learning more about Florence Nightingale’s life and work. This is a selective list and guide to our holdings.

Nightingale Biographies

Nightingale’s continued popularity is evident in the many biographies that address her life. Errors have crept in to the secondary literature, however, and so a reader must be careful. The following are recommended sources for those interested in Nightingale and her life.

Bostridge, M. (2008). Florence Nightingale: The Making of an Icon. New York: Farrar Straus and Giroux. 647 pages.

The first full-length biography of Florence Nightingale in many years, this book explores the development of the Nightingale myth in relation to her life. The author also corrects the factual record of Nightingale’s life, which has been obscured by the secondary literature. A recent review described this biography as “the one essential biography that anyone who wants to learn about Nightingale should read.”1

Gill, G. (2004). Nightingales: the Extraordinary Upbringing and Curious Life of Miss Florence Nightingale. New York: Ballantine Books. 536 pages.

Described by some as a “novelistic biography,” this readable book fills in the context for Florence’s life, by describing her society, her family, and her friends. Focusing on her youth through her time in the Crimea, the biography includes fascinating details about Nightingale’s upbringing and early adulthood. It concludes with a brief summary of her life and accomplishments after the war.

Dossey, B. M. (2010). Florence Nightingale: Mystic, Visionary, Healer. Philadelphia Pa.: F.A. Davis Co. 458 pages.

Dossey, B. M. (2000). Florence Nightingale: Mystic, Visionary, Healer. Springhouse Pa.: Springhouse Corp. 440 pages.

This shorter biography is a lovely introduction to Florence Nightingale. It is a rich visual presentation of Nightingale’s life, because it contains a number of portraits and photographs that illustrate people and events. The 2010 Commemorative Edition includes two new appendices.

O’Malley, I. B. (1931). Florence Nightingale, 1820-1856: A Study of Her Life Down to the End of the Crimean War. London: Thornton Butterworth. 416 pages.

Two biographies were authorized by the Nightingale family; Edward Cook’s was the first, and this is the second. O’Malley had access to some family papers unavailable to Cook. It is also of interest because it is the only biography known to “describ[e] and excerp[t]” Florence’s early journals. The great majority of her journals written before she turned 32 years of age have been lost, and therefore are not included in subsequent biographies.

Cook, E. T. (1913). The Life of Florence Nightingale. London: Macmillan and Co. 1016 pages.

Nightingale’s family commissioned this biography shortly after her death, and it remains the most comprehensive and best researched of the early biographies.

Nightingale Writings

Florence Nightingale was a prolific writer. The library has critical editions of selected letters, publications, and previously unpublished writings.


Nightingale, F. (1987). Letters from Egypt: A Journey on the Nile 1849–50 (A. Sattin, Ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins.

This illustrated volume reproduces a collection of letters Florence wrote during her voyage to Egypt with the Bracebridges, friends of the Nightingales, in 1849-1850. Nightingale’s sister Parthenope originally collected and published the letters in 1854. Here they are slightly edited and presented with artwork from the time period when Florence visited Egypt.

Nightingale, F. (1990). Ever Yours, Florence Nightingale: Selected Letters (M. Vicinus and B. Nergaard, Eds.). Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press.

This one volume selection of Nightingale’s letters covers her entire life, and the collection “emphasizes the relationship between Nightingale’s private conflicts and her enormously varied public responsibilities.”

Nightingale, F. (1981). Florence Nightingale in Rome: Letters Written by Florence Nightingale in Rome in the winter of 1847-1848 (M. Keele, Ed.). Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society.

When Florence was 27, she traveled to Italy with the Bracebridges. This volume reproduces the letters she wrote while traveling, mostly addressed to her family in England.

Nightingale, F. (1997). Letters from the Crimea, 1854–1856 (S. Goldie, Ed.). New York: Mandolin.

Of the approximately 300 letters Florence wrote during her time in the Crimea, about 100 are included in this representative selection. The editor describes two themes that emerged in the letter selection. First, the letters highlight the role of Sidney Herbert, who asked Nightingale to head the contingent of nurses to the Crimea. Second, the letters demonstrate Nightingale’s “battle with the Medical Department for the recognition of the nursing establishment.”


Nightingale, F. (2008). Notes on Nursing and Other Writings. New York: Kaplan Publishing.

This edition of Nightingale’s most famous book Notes on Nursing also includes her feminist essay “Cassandra” and a small selection of correspondence between Florence and her family.

Nightingale, F. (1992). Florence Nightingale’s Notes on Nursing (V. Skretkowicz, Ed.). London: Scutari Press.

The second edition of Notes on Nursing, the only version intended for educated nursing professionals, provides the core text in this volume. Later additions are also included. The editor provides a history of Notes on Nursing in the introduction, as well as a guide to identification for the first edition of the book.

Nightingale, F. (1992). Notes on Nursing: What It Is, and What It Is Not (Commemorative ed.). Philadelphia: Lippincott.

This leather-bound, commemorative edition of the original 1859 Notes on Nursing includes twelve essays by modern nurse theorists and leaders.

Rosenberg, C., Ed. (1989). Florence Nightingale on Hospital Reform. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc.

This reproduction of Nightingale’s Notes on Hospitals (3rd ed.) and Introductory Notes on Lying-In Institutions is part of the series “Medical Care in the United States: The Debate Before 1940.” These writings indicate Nightingale’s belief in the direct relationship between nursing care and the design of the hospital where the care was provided.

Other Writing

Nightingale, F. (1997). Florence Nightingale in Egypt and Greece: Her Diary and “Visions” (M. Calabria, Ed.) Albany: State University of New York Press.

This volume brings together the full text of Nightingale’s diary from her voyage to Egypt and Greece in 1849–1850 and two pieces of short fiction also composed on the voyage. These materials highlight Nightingale’s spiritual struggles in the years before she was able to pursue nursing. The diary and stories also chart Florence’s development as a mystic.

Nightingale, F. (1994). Suggestions for Thought by Florence Nightingale: Selections and Commentaries (M. Calabria and J. Macrae, Eds.). Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Nightingale wrote Suggestions for Thought, an 800-page work sharing her religious and philosophical views, in her thirties. Florence wanted to provide an alternative to atheism for the working class. This edition is significantly abridged and edited, and includes commentary to provide context.

Nightingale, F. (1992). Cassandra and Other Selections from Suggestions for Thought (M. Poovey, Ed.). New York: New York University Press.

In this selection from Suggestions for Thought, the editor focuses on “Nightingale’s religious philosophy and her thoughts on the position of women.” Of particular note on the latter subject is Nightingale’s essay “Cassandra,” which is now considered part of the feminist canon. Entire sections of Nightingale’s original text are presented.

Nightingale, F. (1991). As Miss Nightingale Said…Florence Nightingale through Her Sayings: A Victorian Perspective (M. Baly, Ed.). London: Scutari Press.

This small volume presents Florence Nightingale through quotations from her prolific writings, spanning the entirety of Nightingale’s life. The editor describes several difficulties inherent in studies of Nightingale’s writings: contradictions, exaggerations, and differences between public and private comments. The extensive time span of Nightingale’s writing also presents challenges. Despite these difficulties, these quotations provide insight into Florence’s times, life, and work.

Multi-volume Sets

McDonald, L., Ed. (2001–). The Collected Works of Florence Nightingale. Waterloo, Ont.: Wilfrid Laurier University Press.

The Collected Works is the most comprehensive collection of Nightingale’s writing and aims to present a full picture of Florence Nightingale. In the words of the series editor, “the intent is to present Nightingale as a scholar, theorist, intellectual, an original thinker, and practical reformer in a diverse range of subjects.” This series has 13 completed volumes, and an additional 3 are projected.

Volume 1: Life and Family
Volume 2: Spiritual Journey
Volume 3: Theology
Volume 4: Mysticism and Eastern Religions
Volume 5: Society and Politics
Volume 6: Public Health Care
Volume 7: European Travels
Volume 8: Women
Volume 9: Health in India
Volume 10: Social Change in India
Volume 11: Suggestions for Thought
Volume 12: The Nightingale School
Volume 13: Extending Nursing

Williamson, L., Ed. (1999). Florence Nightingale and the Birth of Professional Nursing. London: Thoemmes Press.

This six-volume set includes a selection of Nightingale’s writings, in addition to publications on health care from other authors of her time. The editor’s intent is to “introduce … key developments in nursing as they were chronicled by reformers and writers of the day.”

Nightingale Scholarship

In addition to founding modern nursing, Florence Nightingale’s accomplishments span a number of disciplines, as demonstrated by these wide-ranging titles about her work and impact on society.

Baly, M. E. (1997). Florence Nightingale and the Nursing Legacy (2nd ed.). London: Whurr Publishers.

Baly uses new primary sources from the archive of the Nightingale Fund Council to properly describe the role of the Nightingale Fund and Nightingale’s nursing schools in nursing history. The Nightingale Fund was established in 1855, during the Crimean War, and gathered significant donations that enabled Florence to found the Nightingale School of Nursing in 1860.

Bullough, V., Bullough, B., and Stanton, M. (Eds.). (1990). Florence Nightingale and Her Era: A Collection of New Scholarship. New York: Garland.

Presented at a conference at the University of Buffalo, these papers discuss Florence Nightingale, nursing, and the status of women. They focus primarily on the period from 1850 to 1910.

Cohen, I. (2005). The Triumph of Numbers: How Counting Shaped Modern Life. New York: W. W. Norton and Co. [Note Chapter 9: “Florence Nightingale.”]

The ninth chapter of this book is devoted to Florence Nightingale, her use of statistics, and her contributions to the graphical presentation of statistical information.

Dossey, B., et al. (2005). Florence Nightingale Today: Healing, Leadership, Global Action. Silver Spring, MD: American Nurses Association.

This volume seeks to tie Florence Nightingale’s ideas and legacy to nursing today. The authors use three principles—healing, leadership, and global action—as a framework for discussing Nightingale, and include the text and an analysis of Nightingale’s thirteen formal letters to nursing students from 1872–1900. Each chapter ends with a “pentimento” or short essay on an element of Nightingale’s life.

Gourlay, J. (2003). Florence Nightingale and the Health of the Raj. Burlington, VT: Ashgate.

Florence Nightingale is less well known for her 40 years of public health efforts in India. This book explains her involvement in sanitation and social reform in the country. Florence never visited India in person, but her work on behalf of the country left lasting effects.

Mowbray, P. (2008). Florence Nightingale and the Viceroys: A Campaign for the Health of the Indian People. London: Haus.

This book also highlights Nightingale’s work in India, but has the more specific goal of exploring “the results of Miss Nightingale’s collaboration over forty years with a remarkable procession of British statesmen who, during a significant period of change, held the lives of millions of Indians in their hands.”

Webb, V. (2002). Florence Nightingale: The Making of a Radical Theologian. St. Louis, MO: Chalice Press.

This Nightingale biography focuses on Florence’s core spiritual nature and its development throughout her life. Chapter topics include her calls from God, voyage to Egypt, struggles with her family, and her own religious convictions. Two chapters deal specifically with Suggestions for Thought, Nightingale’s religious and philosophical treatise, and two chapters address Florence’s long friendship with theologian and Oxford scholar Benjamin Jowett.


1. Larsen, T. (2008). “St. Flo.” Books and Culture Nov/Dec.
2. Small, H. (2009). Review of Florence Nightingale: The Woman and her Legend. English Historical Review, 509, 996–998.