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News > Club News > International Women's Day Feature: Florence Nightingale David (OC1928)

International Women's Day Feature: Florence Nightingale David (OC1928)

As part of International Women's Day, we'd like to celebrate the statistician Florence Nightingale David (OC1928), on the 100th anniversary of the year she started at Colyton Grammar School.
4 Mar 2020
Club News
Colyton Grammar School photo 1927 (F.N. David third row back, third in on the left)
Colyton Grammar School photo 1927 (F.N. David third row back, third in on the left)
As part of International Women's Day, we'd like to celebrate alumna Florence Nightingale David, on the 100th anniversary of the year she started at Colyton Grammar School. She went on to be a prominent statistician, pioneer of her time and role model for women in STEM.

Who was Florence Nightingale David?
Florence's parents were both elementary school teachers, and were friends with Florence Nightingale (where Florence David took her name). She was born in 1909 (the year titanic build started and the first Model T Ford car was sold).

Florence lived in Beer, Devon and attended Colyton Grammar School in 1920 on a scholarship, only 7 years after the school started to educate girls. She went on to be our longest standing Head Girl, from 1924-1928.  Under the head teacher Mr McKay Ohm, Florence enjoyed Maths and in 1929 received many awards for her academic success. She was highlighted in an article covering the school's Speech Day, in the Pullman’s Newspaper, as an example of the importance of educating girls. Remarkable achievement the year after the Women where given the same rights as Men to vote. The head teacher at Colyton Grammar School understood the importance of educating girls.  Florence was a strong character, known for being one of the first girls to ride a motorbike to school, the equivalent of arriving by helicopter today!

Florence went to study Mathematics at Bedford College (a women’s college), and then went on to be a Research Assistant at University College London (UCL). She received her doctorate in 1938 in Statistics.  During World War II she served as an experimental officer, her work during this time ranged from the studying bombing patterns to developing a method for randomly placing land mines to avoid the appearance of any pattern in their placement. The importance of her work took her in 1944 to the USA (flown in an American Bomber) to view the first big digital computer (built to predict trajectories of weapons).

After the war she went back to UCL as a Lecturer and then she was appointed Professor in 1962, during such time she became a Fellow of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics and the American Statistical Society. Florence used her interest in probability to assist in battling forest fires too, and then went onto the University of California, Riverside in 1967 and established the Department of Biostatistics.

Florence was key to building up this department who after 10 years had grown to 10 professors and 5 part time lecturers. Florence retired in 1977 and was named Professor, Emeritus and research associate at the University of California, Berkley, where she continued to teach for another decade. Her hard work was recognised in 1992, she received the first Elizabeth L. Scott award at the Joint Statistical Meetings in Boston through  “her efforts in opening the door to women in statistics; for contributions to the profession over many years; for contributions to education, science, and public service; for research contributions to combinatorics, statistical methods, applications, and understanding history; and her spirit as a lecturer and a role model.

Her memory lives on

Florence N. David published 10 books, and over 100 papers, her book Games, God and Gambling is widely recommended as an entertaining account of the history of probability.  Florence work is celebrated through the COPSS and the Caucus for Women in Statistics in America with a F. N David Award and Lecture, celebrating outstanding female statisticians.

Florence N. David's life story is truly inspiring as she encountered many challenges 100 years ago, here at Colyton Grammar School we celebrate all our alumnae's achievements.


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