Lynn McDonald


Hitoe Kanai : Japanese translation supervisor


[ Why another biography of Florence Nightingale in this day and age? ]

Florence Nightingale (1820-1910) was already a legend even in her own life. Since then, there have appeared innumerable publications of biographies portraying her life in so many varieties of ways; Many written with over-exaggerated and often irrelevant praises, and many with full of groundless criticisms and malicious slanders. There are indeed some biographical works trying sincerely to depict her true image; however, none ever succeeded in sufficiently capturing the real image of so great character as Nightingale.

Why are there so huge discrepancies among authors in assessing Nightingale? The answer lies exclusively in the enormousness of the quantity of writings she produced in the course of her life.

It is generally essential for a biographer to hunt as many posthumous writings as possible and read them carefully through so as to piece together the description of a historical person’s life. In the case of Nightingale, however, the total amount is too huge. No one ever achieved to collect and compile the whole. In fact, even the conscientious biographers of her in the past did their works based on the partial materials they could obtain respectively. Thus, came out so many different varieties of the descriptions of Nightingale’s life.

The writings Nightingale put out are about 150 publications in her lifetime, and more than 10,000 manuscripts such as letters, notes, memos and diaries. The latter materials are very difficult to access, especially the letters. Nightingale often writes long letters to her family members, friends, collaborators and others. She described in her letters in precious detail wide range of matters from her daily life to public projects. Indeed, she carried through many accomplishments almost exclusively by letter correspondences. Since Nightingale was a lady in the upper class and gained the reputation as a national hero early in her life, her letters were treasured and most of them were kept as precious articles. Therefore, Nightingale’s letters are essential materials for her biographers. But the problem is these letters are not gathered in one place. They are scattered in more than 200 places worldwide such as libraries, archives, organizations and private houses.

Dr. Lynn McDonald, the author of this book, overcame this problem for the fist time in history. With the financial support from the government of Canada, she carried through the miraculous achievement of accessing all the writings of Nightingale including the letters and of publishing the compilation of the whole with comprehensive commentaries. It took her almost 20 years. Her accomplishment is now embodied as The Collected Works of Florence Nightingale (16 volumes published one by one from the year 2001 through 2012: about 16000 pages all together). The work is also available as electronic database. Thanks to Dr. McDonald’s great contribution, we are now in complete command of the whole first hand materials. We are all given entirely new perspectives and revolutionized ways to further advance the studies on Nightingale.

This book is a sincere biographical work by Dr. McDonald herself. Thus, the book came as the first biography of Florence Nightingale based on the entire fist hand materials.

[ Why Florence Nightingale’s thoughts in this day and age? ]

What is the significance in revisiting Nightingale’s thoughts? The answer is this book; that is, it is made explicit by this book for the first time in history that the extraordinary driving force that led Nightingale to achieve many breakthroughs in social reforms was derived straightforwardly from her thoughts.

Nightingale did not end up just being the “Crimean Angel”. She won high praise for her pragmatic competence that saved a large number of soldiers’ lives at hospitals in the Crimean war, so the British administration and legislature asked her to function as healthcare and political advisor. And then, she carried though many reforms with which she was trusted. Among Nightingale’s achievements are the sanitary reforms in the British Army, the reforms in general hospital system, the creation of Nursing Education system, the spread of public hygiene, the amendment to the Poor Laws, the public health measures in India, the establishment of medical statistics, and the setting about of the pioneering study on hospital architecture. She wrote about her views on each of these themes and subjects and publicized them as papers or as reports. These views of hers are also found in her letters.

With the wisdom of hindsight, each and every one of all Nightingale’s great achievements converges as one undivided breakthrough made out of Nightingale’s unparalleled sense of her calling. In other words, we can observe a strong coherence in her prospect and purpose among all the reforms she achieved.

The issue of poverty and public health was the greatest challenge in the British society then. Nightingale exclusively tackled this challenge with many social reforms. From an early age, she was deeply grieved at the misery the poor suffered from even in the rich and civilized society of Britain. Also from an early age, she saw into the cause of poverty not as a punishment of individuals’ idleness and ignorance but as a corollary of the social distortion. Thus, Nightingale diagnosed poverty and the high death rate among the poor as the social pathology and set out to radically reform the laws and social systems. In other words, what she did was literally nursing; she nursed the sick nation and its suffering people.

Deepest in her thought, Nightingale nurtured her distinctive philosophy of nursing. Therefore, she recognized mere materialistic relief and philanthropic charity as not the ideal support. The true aid she thought is to bring out the best in a person or a nation to be able to use well every power a person or a nation has. This is exactly the principle of nursing.

Nightingale’s social reform movements and campaign for enlightenments broke completely with the old and faulty Christian conventions the British society then had long been defending stubbornly. Therefore, she contributed greatly to the creation of the entirely new British social systems. This book fully depicts Nightingale’s liberal thought and political creed that served as the backbone for her reform campaigns. As you read on, you will understand why Nightingale decided on leading an independent life after in her youth going through so much spiritual conflict, emotional distress and mental agony.

Nightingale’s proposition for an innovative welfare and healthcare system was embodied in the Metropolitan Poor Act 1867. After her death, the novel ideas of hers in the proposition were passed on to the National Health Service, the world-famous British system established in 1948. The system is adopted as a model worldwide. The system, also know as “from the cradle to the grave”, is a brainchild of Nightingale.

Japan now faces a social crisis. Her economy, welfare, healthcare and education are being threatened amid advancement of aging society with birthrate falling. No other society in history has ever experienced the problem with such rapidness and intensity as in Japan. We are now under urgent pressure to grope for a new social system that would protect the lives and welfare of people. Under this confusing circumstances, we must find out how we keep our healthcare and how we cope with diseases, aging and death. About 150 years ago, the 19th century British people overcame the unprecedented social crisis and social pathological phenomena thanks to Nightingale’s thought and its practice. Her thought is still full of wisdoms for us to overcome our own problems.

[ The Japanese Translation now available as a book for general readers ]

Florence Nightingale at First Hand is published in the year 2010 in commemoration of the centenary of Nightingale’s demise. The author, Dr. Lynn McDonald, accessed almost all Nightingale’s writings scattered worldwide and compiled them into the 16 volumes of The Collected Works of Florence Nightingale , as mentioned earlier. Dr. McDonald also put her commentaries to each volume. The commentaries can be also read as a detailed biography of Nightingale. Based on the commentaries, Dr. McDonald newly wrote down a concise but fully ample biography of Nightingale. The biography is this book. And now that the translation was done, the Japanese version of the book for general readers has come out with some arrangements of extra reference materials and pictures in it, under my supervision. Here is the Japanese translation of Florence Nightingale at First Hand by Dr. Lynn McDonald.

All the biographers in the past tried to describe Nightingale’s personality, but Dr. Lynn McDonald is a distinguished sociologist. Therefore, her biographical work is quite unique in that she captured Nightingale from the perspective of social contributions. With the sociological analysis in hand, Dr. McDonald successfully described Nightingale not only as a private being but also as a social being. It is therefore that the Japanese translation book is given the title meaning “The Real Image of Florence Nightingale”.

As you read on, you will surely cry out many times “ Is this how in real life Nightingale lived her life?” In fact, I have long been a researcher on Nightingale and I myself was deeply moved by the book. The book really enlightens even a professional scholar on Nightingale.

This book, therefore, is more than a biography. It might not be read as an entertainment but rather as a research book. One thing that is certain is that there is no other book in this world through which you can deeply learn Nightingale and her thought than this book.

I also recommend this book as “an introduction to Nightingale”. The Japanese text here is quite easy for a general reader to follow. As you read carefully, you will soon be deeply familiar with the real image of Nightingale and her profound philosophy of nursing.

I do hope Nightingale’s faith and dream will be passed on to you.