Joseph Lister Facts

Joseph Lister was a British surgeon who made surgery safer for patients by introducing sterilization techniques.

Here are some facts about Jospeh Lister:

  • Joseph Lister studied at the University of London and he entered the Royal College of Surgeons when he was 26.

  • Lister worked as a professor of surgery at universities in both Glasgow and Edinburgh.
  • His greatest contribution to medicine was to promote the use of carbolic acid as an antiseptic. Lister was heavily influenced by Louis Pasteur‘s work on bacteria. After studying Pasteur’s findings, Lister soon realised that severe changes needed to happen to prevent so many people dying after surgery, due to infection. Traditionally, surgeons wore dirty aprons, surgical instruments were unclean and surgeons didn’t even wash their hands before carrying out operations. Lister tested what would happen if the surgical instruments and bandages were treated with carbolic acid, and he was pleased to see that infection was significantly reduced.
  • By 1879 Lister’s ideas had been accepted by most hospitals in Britain. Carbolic acid was used on bandages and was even sprayed into the air during operations to kill bacteria and reduce the risk of the wound becoming infected.
  • Lister also made other contributions to medicine. He was the second man in England to operate on a brain tumor, and he worked out a method of repairing kneecaps with metal wire.
  • In 1897, he was made Baron Lister of Lyme Regis.
  • In 1901, although he had retired as a surgeon, he was asked to give advice about antiseptics and sterilization when Edward VII had his appendix removed.
  • Lister died in 1912, aged 84.

Joseph Lister

Find out about some of the other famous Victorians by clicking here.

Robert Peel: Facts and Information

Robert Peel was the British Prime Minister from 1834 to 1835, and from 1841 to 1846. He most well-known for starting the first police force in Britain.

Here are some facts about him:

  • Robert Peel was born in Bury, Lancashire in 1788.
  • He was an excellent student, and he attended Oxford University, studying classics and mathematics.

  • His father, Sir Robert Peel, was a very wealthy textile manufacturer, and he was also a Member of Parliament.
  • As a result of his father’s influence and political connections, Robert Peel became a Member of Parliament when he was only 21.
  • Robert Peel held a number of government posts (in both England and Ireland) before becoming Home Secretary in 1822.
  • In 1829, Robert Peel set up the Metropolitan Police Force based at Scotland Yard. He employed 1000 police constables and they became known as ‘Bobbies’ or ‘Peelers’.
  • The ‘Bobbies’ were quite unpopular at first, but they did succeed in reducing crime in London.
  • Robert Peel was twice the Prime Minister of Britain. His first term (from 1834 to 1835) was as leader of a minority government, but his second term (from 1841 to 1835) saw him as leader of a Tory (Conservative) majority.
  • During his time as Prime Minister, Peel reintroduced income tax in order to reduce taxes on goods.
  • In 1844 Peel introduced the Factory Act, limiting the number of hours that women and children were permitted to work in factories.
  • Robert Peel served as MP for Tamworth from 1830 to his death in 1850. He is credited with breeding the first Tamworth pig, by crossing pigs local to Tamworth with pigs from Ireland.
  • Robert Peel had five sons and two daughters.
  • He died in 1850 following a riding accident.
  • Robert Peel is often referred to as the founder of modern conservatism, and as the father of modern policing.

Robert Peel

Click here to find out about other famous Victorians.

Lewis Carroll Facts

Here are some interesting facts about Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice in Wonderland.

  • Lewis Carroll’s real name is Charles Dodgson. He used the name Lewis Carroll when he was writing his children’s books and composing his poems.

  • He was born in 1832 and died in 1898.
  • Lewis Carroll was a teacher of maths at Oxford University.
  • Lewis Carroll was one of eleven children. When he was growing up, he often spent time playing literary games with his brothers and sisters.
  • He was also very keen on drawing as a child.
  • Lewis Carroll often used to take the three daughters of his friend, Dean Liddell, for days out and boat trips on the river. It was on one of these trips that he first told the story that became Alice in Wonderland. The story was first published in 1865.
  • Carroll wrote another Alice book. This one was called Alice Through the Looking Glass and it was published in 1865.
  • As well as writing children’s books, Lewis Carroll also enjoyed writing poetry, and he was a keen letter writer.
  • Lewis Carroll produced several works about mathematics when he was working at Oxford University, and he invented the Carroll Diagram (sometimes known as the Lewis Carroll Square), a method of grouping data which is still taught in maths lessons to today.
  • Lewis Carroll loved puzzles and games. He was a very keen chess player, and there are lots of references to chess (and other games) in his books for children.

Lewis Carroll

Click here to learn more about other famous Victorians.

William Morris Facts

William Morris was an English artist, poet and politician. He was incredibly creative and he produced decorative art in a range of different forms, including: textiles, furniture, wallpaper, stained glass windows, book design and tapestry. Below are some facts about William Morris. Some the information you will probably already know, but hopefully some will be new to you.

  • William Morris lived and worked during the Victorian era. He was born in 1834 and he died in 1896.
  • He earned a degree from Exeter College, Oxford. After his graduation he started to work as an architect.
  • William Morris was friends with the painters Edward Burne-Jones and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and he soon stopped being an architect in order to become a painter.
  • In 1859 William Morris married Jane Burden. Soon after they had a house built for them on Bexley Heath. The house was called Red House and was designed by Philip Webb. William and Jane designed all of the interiors and decoration themselves. They spent about two years getting the house just right, doing much of the work themselves. They were so happy with the results that they decided to start their own fine art craft work company.
  • In 1861 their company, called Morris, Marshall, Faulkner and Co., started to make furniture, tableware, soft furnishings and wallpaper. All of the items produced were handcrafted.
  • By the mid-1860s, William Morris concentrated on designing wallpaper. His patterns were inspired by the natural world, and these are some his best-known works of art.
  • In 1875 William Morris started a new company, Morris and Co.
  • William Morris wrote many poems during his lifetime. Most of his best work is heavily influenced by the Icelandic sagas.
  • He set up the Kelmscott Press in the early 1890s. This company published books which contained beautiful illustrations.
  • In 1883 Morris joined a political party called  the Social Democratic Federation. He also helped to start a new party called the Socialist League.
  • When William Morris died in 1896, his doctor said that Morris had carried out the work of ten men during his lifetime.

A famous William Morris quote is:

Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.

William Morris

Follow the link to find out more about some other famous Victorians.

Robert Louis Stevenson: Facts and Information

Robert Louis Stevenson was a famous Victorian author. He mainly wrote mystery and adventure stories, and his books are still read and enjoyed today.

Here are some facts about Robert Louis Stevenson:

  • Robert Louis Stevenson was born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1850. His family were wealthy and, as a child, he was looked after by his nanny, Alison Cunningham.

  • When he was twelve, Robert Louis Stevenson, his parents and his nanny went on a five month holiday. They visited France, Switzerland, Belgium, Germany and Italy.
  • Robert Louis Stevenson was a sickly child. He was exceedingly thin and frail, and he suffered with coughs and fevers.
  • When he was just sixteen he wrote The Pentland Rising, a story based on an historical event. His father paid for 100 copies to be printed in pamphlet form.
  • Robert Louis Stevenson went to Edinburgh University. He started to study engineering, but soon switched to studying the law. He passed his legal exams, but in his heart he knew he wanted to be a writer.
  • In 1876 he went on a canoeing trip to Belgium and France with a friend. He kept a journal of his travels and used it to form the basis of his first book, An Inland Voyage.
  • In France, Stevenson met an American woman called Fanny Osbourne. He fell in love with her.
  • In 1879, Robert Louis Stevenson travelled all the way from Britain to America to see Fanny Osbourne, and they got married in 1880. They decided to live in Britain and set up home with Fanny’s twelve year old son (from her previous marriage), Lloyd.
  • In 1881 the Stevenson family went on holiday in Scotland. It rained for days on end, and to pass the time Lloyd made up an drew a map of an imaginary island. The map made Robert Louis Stevenson think of pirates and treasure, and inspired him to write Treasure Island.
  • Treasure island was first published as a book in 1883. It was very successful and turned Robert Louis Stevenson into a well-known writer.
  • Robert Louis Stevenson continued to experience health problems as an adult. He suffered with chest infections and was often so ill he couldn’t leave his bed.
  • In 1886 he wrote both The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Kidnapped. Much of the writing was done from his sickbed.
  • From 1888 to 1890, the Stevenson family spent two years sailing around the Pacific Ocean islands. Robert Louis Stevenson decided to build a house on the island of Upolu, in Western Samoa. He carried on writing, but found it increasingly difficult as his illness become worse.
  • In December 1894, Robert Louis Stevenson died. He was only 44 years old. His body was buried on Mount Vaea, Upolu.

Interesting Facts and Information about Mary Seacole

Like Florence Nightingale, Mary Seacole made a name for herself by helping wounded and sick soldiers during the Crimean War. Although Mary Seacole was well-known in Victorian Britain, she was almost completely forgotten following her death in 1881. Recently, however,  historians have been paying more attention to the role she played in treating the sick during her lifetime.

Here are some interesting facts about Mary Seacole.

Mary Secole Facts – Before the Crimean War

  • Mary was born in 1805 in Kingston, Jamaica.
  • Her father was a Scottish soldier and her mother was Jamaican.
  • Mary Seacole was mixed-race and described herself as ‘Creole’.
  • Mary’s mother ran a boarding house in Kingston. Many of the guests were disabled and injured European soldiers.
  • Her mother taught Mary to care for the sick and injured soldiers by using herbal rememdies and traditional Jamaican and African folk treatments.
  • Mary was able to read and write, but it is not clear whether or not she attended school.
  • Unlike most women of the time, Mary Seacole travelled a lot. Before setting off for the Crimea, Mary had spent time in Panama, Haiti and Cuba. During her travels, she spent time helping sick and injured people. She gained lots of experience treating people suffering with cholera, yellow fever and other tropical diseases.

Mary Seacole and the Crimean War

  • As soon as she heard about the suffering of the soldiers in the Crimean War, she wanted to travel to Turkey to help them. Mary asked the British War Office to send her to the conflict to help treat the wounded, but her request was refused. Mary also wasn’t chosen to be one of the nurses to accompany Florence Nightingale to the Crimea.
  • Mary Seacole decided to make her own way to the Crimea. She borrowed the money for the 4000 mile journey and came up with a business plan that would allow her to tend to the injured and wounded soldiers.
  • Mary set up the British Hotel, located only two miles away from the conflict itself. She rented rooms to injured soldiers and sold food and equipment to the troops. Mary spent the money on caring for the wounded soldiers from both sides.
  • Mary ran a daily clinic to nurse the sick soldiers and she was often spotted treating wounds on the battlefield – something Florence Nightingale never did.
  • Mary was known as Mother Seacole by the soldiers she cared for.

Mary Seacole’s Life After the Crimean War

  • Mary was very poor after the end of the Crimean War in 1856. She returned both broke and in ill-health.
  • A charity gala was held London in her honour. Over 80,ooo people attended.
  • Mary Seacole wrote a book about her experiences. It’s called Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands and it was very popular when it was published in 1857.
  • She died in 1881 and was buried in Kensal Green, London.

Take a look at some facts and information about some of the other famous Victorians.

Facts About Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale was a famous nurse. She is best known for the work she did to care for the wounded soldiers during the Crimean War, but she also made a big contribution to changing the way in which hospitals were run. She was a celebrity in Victorian times and she has continued to be spoken and written about to this day.

We’ve put together some great Florence Nightingale facts for kids, teachers and parents – we hope you find this information both useful and interesting.

Key Florence Nightingale Facts – (Before the Crimean War)

  • Florence Nightingale was born in Florence (Italy) on 12th May 1820.
  • Her mother was called Fanny and her father was called William. Florence also had an older sister called Parthenope. They were a very wealthy family.
  • Florence grew up mingling with other rich children and spent much of her time visiting friends and attending parties.
  • On 7th February 1837, when she was 16 years, old Florence was convinced that she had heard the voice of God calling to her. She believed that God wanted her to carry out some special work.
  • When she was in her twenties Florence began to take an interest in how the sick people in the villages around her home (in Romsey, Hampshire) were taken care of. She started to believe that God wanted her to be a nurse.
  • Her parents were both shocked and angry when she told them that she wanted to learn more about nursing  at a Salisbury hospital. At the time nearly all nurses came from poor families.
  • Florence and some of her friends visited Kaiserwerth (in what is now Germany). The town was home to a hospital famous for training nurses. One year later, in 1851, Florence Nightingale recieved three months training at the hospital in Kaiserwerth.
  • Florence returned home as a trained nurse. She put these skills to good use as from 1851 – 1853 she cared for her mother, father and sister who had all become ill.
  • In 1853, when she was 33, she took a job running a small private hospital in London’s Harley Street.
  • Her father realised that Florence was really serious about helping the sick and injured and promised to pay her £500 a year. This was a massive sum of money in Victorian times.
  • In 1854 Florence helped to tend people suffering from cholera.

Florence NightingaleFlorence Nightingale and the Crimean War

  • In 1854 the Crimean War started between the Turks (and the British and French) on one side and the Russians on the other.
  • William Russell, a journalist for The Times, reported that British troops were dying becasue there weren’t enough doctors, nurses and medical supplies.
  • Sidney Herbert, a friend of Florence’s and the member of the government in charge of the military, wrote to her and asked her to organise a group of nurses and head for the Crimea (in Turkey).
  • On 4th November 1854 Florence Nightingale and 38 other nurses arrived at Scutari, an area of the city of Constantiople. The main British hospital was located there and Florence was not impressed by the conditions. The hospital was dirty, the drains were blocked, rats and fleas were everywhere.
  • At first the doctors did not want the help of Florence Nightingale and her nurses, but they soon changed their minds when the number of wounded soldiers continued to grow.
  • Florence made lots of improvements to the hospital in Scutari. She had the drains cleaned, sorted out a supply of drinking water, filled the hospital stores with clean sheets and bandages, set up a nursing timetable and made sure that the soliders were well fed and cared for.
  • Florence became very popular. The soldiers used to call her the ‘Lady with the Lamp’ because she used to walk the hospital wards at night to check on her patients.
  • The Crimean War ended in 1856 and Florence returned to England. She was a national heroine and many Victorians bought ornaments of Florence Nightingale to display in their homes. Florence also received thousands of letters from the public thanking her for the work she had performed during the war.
  • Queen Victoria invited Florence to meet with her in Balmoral, Scotland. They discussed Florence’s experiences and how military hospitals could be improved.

Life After the Lamp – Facts About the Second Half of Florence Nightingale’s Life

  • In 1859 Florence Nightingale wrote a book about caring for the sick called Notes on Nursing.
  • Florence Nightingale was convinced that all nurses should be properly trained, and in 1860 she set up the Nightingale Training School (for nurses) at St Thomas’s Hospital, London. The nurses who completed the training were known as Nightingale Nurses.
  • Florence carried on writing letters and reports about ways to improve health care. Her work became known in other countries and the Nightingale Nurses often went to work abroad, sharing Florence’s methods and ideas.
  • From 1861 to 1865, Florence gave advice on how best to care for soldiers wounded in the American Civil War.
  • Florence Nightingale was awarded the Royal Red Cross (from Queen Victoria) and the Order of Merit in 1907 (from King Edward VII). This was the first time the Order of Merit had been awarded to a woman.
  • Florence Nightingale died in 1910, aged 90. She is buried in a Hampshire churchyard. Her simple tombstone bears only her initials and the years in which she was born and died.

Florence Nightingale wasn’t the only women who made a name for herself by caring for the wounded troops of the Crimean War. Check out some facts about Mary Seacole, another Victorian lady who risked her life to tend the suffering soldiers, and read about some of the other famous Victorians.

Facts About Victorian Schools and Classrooms

In 1880 a law was passed making it compulsory for every child in Britain between the ages of 5 and 10 to attend school.

Lots of new schools were opened in Victorian times, but they were very different from the schools of today.

What were Victorian classrooms like?

  • In the first half of the 1800s, classes were massive. Sometimes there were more than 100 pupils in every class.
  • The Victorian classroom was often referred to as the schoolroom.
  • Victorian pupils sat at iron-framed desks. These were usually bolted to the floor in rows facing the front of the classroom.
  • The walls of a Victorian school were often completely bare.
  • The floor of the schoolrooms were tiered (a bit like in a cinema). The children sitting at the back of the room were higher up than those sitting at the front. This meant that all of the children had a good view of the teacher and the blackboard, but it also meant that the teacher had a good view of them.
  • The windows in a Victorian classroom were high up (to stop pupils looking out of the window) and the rooms were lit by gaslights. As a result, the schoolrooms were gloomy and often stuffy.
  • Sometimes different classrooms were only divided from the others by curtains. This meant that it was very easy to hear noise coming from other lessons.
  • Although lots of schools were built during the Victorian era, not a great deal of money was spent on taking care of the buildings. Victorian schools were often quite shabby and in need of repair.

What did Victorian children learn? What were Victorian lessons like?

Most Victorian lessons involved listening to the teacher and copying sentences from the blackboard. There was very little partner work or group work and very little chance for pupils to discuss their ideas and ask questions.

Here are some more facts about Victorian lessons:

  • The most important lessons were the ‘three Rs’ – reading, writing and arithmetic (maths).
  • Pupils had to chant things (the times-table facts, for example) out loud until they could do it without making a mistake.
  • Victorian pupils also received lessons in history and geography.
  • Some lessons were called ‘object lessons’. Items (such as models, seeds, rocks and pictures) were placed on each pupil’s desk. The pupils were meant to make observations about the object in front of them. Most science lessons were taught in this way.
  • PE lessons were called ‘drill’ and usually took place in the playground. The children didn’t get changed for PE and the lessons involved lots of jogging on the spot, marching, stretching and lifting weights (dumbbells).
  • In the afternoons the girls and boys did different lessons. The boys were taught woodworking (and some schools also taught farming, shoe-making and gardening). The girls were taught how to cook meals, how to do embroidery and how to complete housework (such as washing and ironing).

What equipment did Victorian pupils use? What did they write on?

  • Children often wrote on slates instead of paper. They scratched the letters onto the slate with a sharpened piece of slate (which they held like a pencil). The writing on the slate could easily be removed and slates could be used again and again. This saved the school money as paper was expensive.
  • The very youngest children used to practise writing letters in sand-trays.
  • Older children used pen and ink to write in their ‘copybooks’. Each child had an inkwell and a fountain pen. It was the job of the ink monitor to fill the inkwells each morning.
  • Children were taught to write in a handwriting style called ‘copperplate’ and left-handed children were often forced to write with their right hands.
  • Victorian classrooms often had an abacus and a globe.

How were Victorian pupils punished if they misbehaved?

Discipline in Victorian schools was very harsh.

Here are some examples of Victorian punishments:

  • Teachers often beat pupils using a cane. Canes were mostly made out of birch wood. Boys were usually caned on their backsides and girls were either beaten on their bare legs or across their hands. A pupil could receive a caning for a whole range of different reasons, including: rudeness, leaving a room without permission, laziness, not telling the truth and playing truant (missing school).
  • Victorian pupils who couldn’t keep up in lessons were often made to wear a ‘dunce’s cap’ (usually made of newspaper) or told to put on an armband or badge with the word ‘dunce’ written on it. The Victorian teachers thought that the pupil would be embarrassed into making more of an effort.
  • In some schools (mostly in Scotland), Victorian children were beaten with a ‘tawse’ (a vicious-looking leather strap).
  • ‘Punishment baskets’ were used in some Victorian classrooms to suspend badly behaved children from the ceiling. The pupil was made to sit in a wicker basket and was then raised from the ground by ropes and pulleys.
  • Sometimes pupils were given lines. They often had to write out the same sentence over 100 without making a single mistake.
  • All of the punishments handed out by Victorian teachers were recorded in the school’s ‘punishment book’.

What were Victorian teachers like?

Here are some useful facts about Victorian teachers:

  • In Victorian schools there were more female teachers than male ones.
  • Victorian pupils were expected to call a male teacher ‘Sir’ and a female teacher ‘Madam’ or ‘Miss’.
  • Older pupils were sometimes given the job of teaching the younger pupils. They were known as ‘pupil teachers’.

Click here to find out more about the Victorians.