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10 Most Famous Nurses in History

Walt Whitman

While you may only know him as one of America's most famous poets, Walt Whitman was also a teacher, a journalist and, for three years during the Civil War, a volunteer nurse.

Whitman never had a formal nursing education, but was motivated to begin visiting wounded soldiers at military hospitals around the Washington, D.C., area after his brother, George, was wounded at the Battle of Fredericksburg while serving with the Union Army in 1862.

While visiting Civil War hospitals, Whitman helped care for the wounded, both body and soul. He listened to their stories and sent word to their families on their behalf. In a letter home to his own mother, Whitman recounted bringing ice cream to wounded soldiers convalescing throughout one D.C. hospital's 18 wards [source: Murray]. He raised soldiers' spirits, and he sat by them while they died. Whitman himself estimated he visited more than 100,000 wounded soldiers (both Union and Confederate) during 600 hospital visits [source:].