Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, may have suffered from a bipolar disorder, stated Dr. Kathy Wisner, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, at a May 2 conference at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Attendees have diagnosed the ills of historic figures since 1995 through case studies at such conferences.
At the age of 31, Nightingale asked God in a letter: "Why, oh my God, can I not be satisfied with the life that satisfies so many people and told that the conversation of all of these clever men ought to be enough for me? Why am I starving, desperate and diseased on it?"
Dr. Wisner cited this letter and others written throughout her life as evidence that Nightingale suffered from a bipolar disorder that caused long periods of depression and remarkable bursts of productivity, according to the Associated Press.
"Florence heard voices and experienced a number of severe depressive episodes in her teens and early 20s consistent with the onset of bipolar disorder," Dr. Wisner told the Associated Press, adding that the effects tend to ease when people reach their 60s and Nightingale's symptoms lessened when she reached the age of 68.
The diagnosis is an interesting theory but no one knows for sure, Dr. Lesley Hall, an archivist and historian at the Wellcome Library for the History and Understanding of Medicine in London, told the Associated Press.