Good News on This Day in History – May 12

200 years ago today, Florence Nightingale was born. The Englishwoman came to prominence for her pioneering work in nursing, tending injured soldiers in the Crimean War, and laying the foundation for professional nursing.

She studied mathematics and became a trailblazer in the field of epidemiology, using statistics to track the number of deaths, and proved that more soldiers were dying from diseases they picked up in hospitals than they were from battlefield wounds. After she improved sanitation, washing hands and surfaces, she tracked the reduction in incidental deaths, with mortality dropping from 40% down to just 2.2% in one year.

She was also a pioneer in data visualization—using infographics to present statistical data, and urged every hospital to collect data. Her beliefs improved healthcare for all sections of British society during the Victorian era.

Nightingale founded St. Thomas’s Hospital in London as the first secular nursing school in the world, which paved the way for many women to join the workforce. This day is now honored as International Nurses Day. (1820)

She later wrote her memoirs and lived til she was 90-years-old. On Monday, the bicentennial of her birth was honored across the UK—including at St. Thomas Hospital London, where a projection dedicated to her was displayed on the side of the building at a time when nursing has become one of the most important vocations in society.

 MORE Good News on this Date:

  • National University of San Marcos, the oldest university in the Americas, was founded in Lima, Peru (1551)
  • Katharine Hepburn, who was once named the greatest actress in Hollywood history by the American Film Institute, after winning four Academy Awards for Best Actress, was born (1907)
  • Mary Kay, the Texas entrepreneur who founded Mary Kay Cosmetics as a business opportunity for women, was born (1918)
  • The groundbreaking comedian George Carlin was born in New York City (1937)
  • At Queen Elizabeth Hall, England, Pink Floyd staged the first-ever quadraphonic rock concert (1967)
  • Kenya announced that it would finally agree to support a worldwide ban on the trade of ivory to save its remaining elephant herds (1989)
  • Pulp Fiction, the film directed by Quentin Tarantino and starring John Travolta, Uma Thurman and Samuel L. Jackson, premiered (and won big) at the Cannes Film Festival (1994)
  • Randy Johnson, at 40, playing for the Arizona Diamondbacks, became the oldest pitcher in major league history to throw a perfect game (2004)

On this day in 2002, former President Jimmy Carter arrived in Cuba for a five-day visit with Fidel Castro–the first U.S. President to do so since Castro’s 1959 revolution.Carter Center photo

He called for many of the reforms that came to pass during the next decade and a half. Trudy Rubin wrote about Carter’s visit in the Philadelphia Inquirer: The former president called for unrestricted travel between the US and Cuba, open trade, and an end to the embargo. He wants a massive student exchange between U.S. and Cuban universities. Speaking in Spanish on national television, Carter told Cubans they have an inherent right to democratic freedoms: the right to choose their leaders, speak freely, organize political parties, and have fair trials. He noted that the United States is far from perfect on human rights issues, but that Americans have the right to change their leaders and laws.

Happy 52nd Birthday to skateboarder Tony Hawk, who turned pro as an awkward 14-year-old. He was often airborne, and became known as the Birdman. At 6’3”, he completed the first documented “900” in history. Thought to be impossible at the time, he spun 2½ times in mid-air before landing successfully on the half-pipe. He was featured in a popular video game series, and has funded various philanthropic activities, such as building skateparks in underprivileged areas. (1968)

WATCH a video made on his 50th—“50 Tricks at 50”—revisiting maneuvers he created during his career, and performed some of them for the last time… “They are not as easy as they use to be,” Hawk says. But he completed ALL of them to celebrate his creative life at the half-century mark.

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