Katherine Jones, Viscountess Ranelagh

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Katherine Jones, Viscountess Ranelagh (22 March 1615 – 23 December 1691) was a leading Anglo-Irish intellectual in London of the Interregnum period. She was sister to Robert Boyle, and in her own right a political and social figure closely connected to the Hartlib Circle.[1]


She was born Katherine Boyle, daughter of Richard Boyle, 1st Earl of Cork and one of a very large and important Anglo-Irish family. She married Arthur Jones, 2nd Viscount Ranelagh, in 1630.[2]

In the mid-1640s in London, having left Ireland after the rebellion of 1641,[3] she came to be a friend and supporter of John Milton, sending him as pupil her nephew Richard Barry in 1645.[4] Barry was followed some time later by her son Richard.[5]

Apart from Samuel Hartlib himself and his closest ally John Dury, she knew John Beale, Arnold Boate and Gerard Boate, Sir Cheney Culpeper, Theodore Haak, William Petty, Robert Wood and Benjamin Worsley.[1] Christopher Hill suggested that her house may have been the meeting place of the "Invisible College" of the later 1640s.[6] From 1656 Henry Oldenburg was tutor to her son Richard.[7] In the 1650s her brother Robert Boyle had a laboratory in her London house, as well as in Oxford, and they experimented together. She was also prominent in the Hartlib Circle of correspondents.[8] She commissioned Robert Hooke in 1676, to modify her house to include a laboratory for her brother Robert Boyle.[1]

Her letters suggest that her influence and encouragement on Boyle's work were considerable.[1] His contemporaries widely acknowledged Katherine's influence on his work, but later historiographies dropped her from the record. Theirs was "a lifelong intellectual partnership, where brother and sister shared medical remedies, promoted each other’s scientific ideas, and edited each other’s manuscripts."[9]

In 1656, she went to Ireland on family business, staying several years.[10] With Arthur Annesley and William Morice she interceded for Milton, arrested after the English Restoration of 1660.[11] In 1668 her brother Robert Boyle came to live with her on Pall Mall.[12] They lived together for the last 23 years of their lives and both died in 1691 within a short period of time.[13] They are buried in the south chancel of St Martin-in-the-Fields, London.[1]


Her children were:



  1. ^ a b c d e f Sarah, Hutton. "Jones, Katherine". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/66365.  (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. ^ http://thepeerage.com/p22893.htm#i228926
  3. ^ Lewalski, p. 602 note 5.
  4. ^ Lewalski, p. 199.
  5. ^ Lewalski, p. 332.
  6. ^ Christopher Hill, Milton and the English Revolution (1977), p. 133
  7. ^ Hall, Marie Boas. "Oldenburg, Henry". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/20676.  (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  8. ^ Lisa Jardine, On a Grander Scale: The Outstanding Career of Sir Christopher Wren (2001), p. 88
  9. ^ DiMeo, Michelle (2014-02-04). ""Such a Sister Became Such a Brother": Lady Ranelagh’s Influence on Robert Boyle"". Chemical Heritage Foundation. Retrieved date=2014-02-05. 
  10. ^ Lewalski, p. 337.
  11. ^ Blair Worden, Literature and Politics in Cromwellian England (2007), p. 369.
  12. ^ Lisa Jardine, The Curious Life of Robert Hooke (2003), p. 89
  13. ^ Hutton, edited by Lynette Hunter & Sarah (1997). Women, science and medicine 1500-1700 : mothers and sisters of the Royal Society (1. publ. ed.). Gloucestershire: Sutton Publishing. p. 179. ISBN 0750913436. 
  14. ^ Armstrong, R. M. "Montgomery, Hugh". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/19068.  (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)