This paper sets the scene for future patterns of nursing and nursing education and traces the ways in which the nursing profession has reached the present position It illustrates the development of nursing over the past 100 years, and examines the key influences which have affected, and are likely to continue to affect, nursing, namely: the Government, the Law and the State; wars and disasters; scientific and technological advances; and people. No attempt has been made to predict or to crystal-gaze, yet the emphasis is firmly placed on the need to plan, to think and to recognize the trends that may determine the future of nursing. Research and education are seen as the tools that will enable nurses to adapt their function to the changing needs of society, whilst preserving the essential or central role of caring. The tapestry – the pattern or web of social relationships, that formed the professional nurse in the Victorian and Edwardian eras, and in the first and second World Wars – presents an unfinished canvas. The present generation of nurses are responsible for continuing to develop that tapestry for future decades, within the framework of the changing social scene of the present day.