Pioneering statistician Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale Day

The Florence Nightingale Days are part of our continuing efforts to promote mathematics and statistics and especially the participation of women in those subjects.

The Florence Nightingale Days are part of our continuing efforts to promote mathematics and statistics to young women in years 10 and above, who will soon be making crucial choices in their career paths. The Florence Nightingale Day will showcase successful women in mathematics at various stages of their careers, display information about the broad range of possibilities offered by a degree in mathematics or statistics, stimulate informal discussion between pupils and mathematicians and give an opportunity for participants to compare their mathematical skills with their peers in other schools via a quiz.

While Florence Nightingale is well-known for her medical work as a nurse, she was also a pioneer in statistics, especially in the use of visualisation of statistical data. A description of this work may be found in her biography on the MacTutor History of Mathematics archive, along with a large number of biographies of other female mathematicians.

Florence Nightingale Day 2021

Thursday 7th January, 10:00-15:00, online

If you are interested in attending, please contact Professor Nadia Mazza (

Provisional Timetable

  • 10.00-10.10: Introduction
  • 10.10-10.55: Talk 1 - Dr Emma Eastoe (Lancaster University), "Extreme events: predicting the (highly) unusual"
  • 10.55-11.05: Quiz briefing
  • 11.05-12.20: Maths quiz! Submission of answers by the teacher-coaches at 12.20 at the latest
  • 12.20-13.10: Lunch break
  • 13.10-13.15: Welcome back
  • 13.15-14.00: Talk 2 - Professor Jo Knight (Lancaster University), "Extracts from a career with numbers"
  • 14.00-14.15: Quiz results
  • 14.15-15.00: Talk 3 - Dr Vandita Patel (University of Manchester), "Fermat's Last Theorem and Beyond"
    • Pythagoras showed that for any right-angled triangle, the square of the length of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the lengths of the other two sides. We famously remember the formula a2 + b2 = c2, for example, 32 + 42 = 52. What happens when we consider cubes instead of squares? How about fourth powers or 37579th powers? In other words, can we find whole positive numbers that satisfy xn + yn = zn when n is at least 3? This general problem is infamously known as Fermat's Last Theorem. In this talk, we explore the fascinating* history of this problem, and of course, go beyond to explore current problems of a similar flavour.
      [*SPOILER ALERT: Fermat's Last Theorem was unresolved for over 350 years!]
  • 15.00-15.05: Closing comments

Dr Emma Eastoe

Having first arrived at Lancaster University to study for a BSc Mathematics with Statistics, I am now a Senior Lecturer in Statistics here. Between now and then, I completed my undergraduate degree and obtained a PhD, as well as working as a Graduate Teaching Assistant and (briefly) as a Research Associate.  My research is centred on the statistical modelling of extreme events arising from environmental hazards, e.g. flooding, gales, heat waves, droughts, and ice melt, and how to predict and communicate the risk of an extreme event arising from one of these hazards. Because of the inter-disciplinary nature of my research I am lucky enough to interact with many non-statisticians, including engineers, hydrologists, physicists, environmental scientists and atmospheric chemists. As a lecturer my job is diverse - often even within one day I will be carrying out many very different activities. I research, teach, supervise PhD students, and lead our departmental postgraduate activities.  I enjoy all of these, and my only wish is that I had more time to spend on each!

Emma Eastoe
Professor Jo Knight

Professor Jo Knight

Jo Knight has worked in academia since the turn of the century! Although she undertook her PhD in the labs she quickly understood the importance of numbers in her research. Subsequently she moved from generating the data to analysing it. She worked in genetics and has recently moved her focus to routinely collected health data. She did her PhD at Queen Mary University of London and then moved to Kings for her first research position. From early 2012 to late 2015 she lived and worked in Toronto before moving back to England and started work at Lancaster University. For work she has been able to travel widely including visits to Iran, Hawaii and Hong Kong. Her household consists of her, her husband their son and a dog!

Dr Vandita Patel

Vandita is a Neumann Research Fellow at The University of Manchester. Prior to this, she was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Toronto. She obtained her PhD in 2017 from the University of Warwick.

Her research is in Number Theory, where she uses a mixture of classical and modern techniques to find integer solutions to certain algebraic equations.

Vandita Patel

Previous events

You can find information about previous years' Florence Nightingale Days here: