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Katherine Jones, Lady Ranelagh (1615-91): science and medicine in a seventeenth-century Englishwoman’s writing

By Michelle Marie DiMeo

Abstract

Katherine Jones, better known to scholars as Lady Ranelagh, was one of the most eminent, politically influential and intellectually respected women in seventeenth-century England. By the time of her death in 1691, she had the rare honour of having been esteemed by every ruler and his government from Cromwell to William and Mary. She was active in diverse intellectual networks across most of the seventeenth century, including the Great Tew Circle, the Hartlib Circle, and the ‘invisible college’, and was associated with many Fellows of the Royal Society during the first three decades of the Society’s existence. As pious as she was intellectually dexterous, Lady Ranelagh elicited respect and admiration from a group of contemporaries who were remarkably diverse in their political opinions, religious views and social status. \ud Over the past decade, there have been several brief surveys of Lady Ranelagh’s life and works; this, however, is the first doctoral thesis to focus exclusively on her. By drawing on over one hundred of her letters and three receipt books associated with her, together with references to her in the diaries of her contemporaries and extant letters written to her, this study contextualises her medical and scientific writings in contemporary religious and socio-political thought. By manipulating generic conventions and employing a rhetoric of modesty, Lady Ranelagh presented her intellectual contributions in a manner appropriate for a gentlewoman. Her extant manuscripts make Lady Ranelagh a representative case study of how women could participate in the radical medical and scientific advances of seventeenth-century England. This interdisciplinary approach creates an informed conversation between two subjects which rarely interact — history of science and medicine, and early modern women’s literature — to consider the material practice and social networks of a remarkably important, but hereunto almost ‘lost’, woman

Topics: DA
OAI identifier: oai:wrap.warwick.ac.uk:3146

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Citations

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