Katherine was born in Youghal in 1615 – the 7th child of Richard Boyle – First Earl of Cork and Katherine Fenton. She was older sister to Robert Boyle, the revered scientist known as the “Father of Modern Chemistry “
Like many young children of the time Katherine was married off at 15 years old. , She was married to Irish Peer and Politician, Arthur Jones.
Katherine, though not as highly educated as the boys in her family, was extremely bright and developed a huge interest in politics, science, medicine, herbs, compounds, and herbal cures. She maintained meticulous notes of all her potions and ministrations (recipes) with results both good and poor duly noted. She belonged to a particular group who enjoyed and excelled in this type of occupation and Katherine was highly regarded as tops in this medical side of science….
So now, skipping on a good number of years and a separation from Mr. Jones, Katherine and her younger brother, Robert, re-connect. Robert had been on his travels and tours in Europe which was quite usual for sons of gentlemen.. At this point Katherine uses her social connections and helps Robert to purchase lab equipment in order that he can maintain his own major chemistry interests. Thus both Boyles began their own individual and independent experiments and they spend the rest of their lives conducting studies, discussing, and comparing their work and experiments. They perfect their recipes, adjusting doses of their potions (medicine) depending of side effects, height and weight of recipient etc. etc . The Boyles were way ahead of their time in this field – They were “Dispensing Pharmacists” in mid 1600s – amazing!
Katherine did not publish her own work – such publications were not undertaken by women – it would lead people to believe that the lady needed to write and publish in order to make money. That would not be seemly for a woman of her social position. In any case Katherine merely wanted her work and knowledge to be shared and put to good use. .
Now to Robert’s “Boyle’s Law”. At that time, everyone close to the Robert Boyle circle knew that his sister, Katherine, was his collaborator, even though her name is not at the bottom of the papers. When writing to mutual friends regarding this work Robert mentions the collaboration of “a kinswoman close to you and I” and he sometimes dedicates his work to a “mistress of wit and eloquence”. We can safely say that this is his acknowledgement of his sister’s collaboration in his projects.
But why not write her name – Katherine – it’s not that difficult, is it?.
Katherine Boyle Jones – Lady Ranelagh died on December 3rd. 1691.
Robert Boyle – Scientist died on December 31st. 1691.
We acknowledge you Katherine Boyle Jones, Lady Ranelagh on this International Woman’s Day 2023 – the original S.T.E.M. scholar heroine.