Home > News > Wolfson College DPhil Student Awarded Jane Willis Kirkaldy Senior Prize
Published on:
Tuesday 30 April 2024
Wolfson people

Wolfson College DPhil Student Awarded Jane Willis Kirkaldy Senior Prize

Ellen Hausner, a first-year DPhil student in the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology, has been announced as one of the joint winners of the Jane Willis Kirkaldy Senior Prize. The annual prize recognises outstanding essays in the field of the history of science, medicine, and technology at the University of Oxford. 

Ellen’s doctoral research explores the uses and functions of symbols, images, and glyphs within alchemical texts in the early modern period (c.1450-1700), having come to her DPhil at Wolfson following a career in academic libraries.

Ellen’s prize-winning essay, ‘Prima Materia Lapidis: A Late Medieval Alchemical Scroll and its Early Modern Reception’ focused on the earliest extant exemplar of the Ripley Scroll corpus, a body of ornate, richly illuminated alchemical manuscripts. This particular Ripley Scroll (MS. Bodl. Rolls 1) was donated to the Bodleian library in 1605 by an otherwise unknown physician called William Dun. Ellen’s essay builds a picture of Dun’s views on alchemy, religion and magic by linking the early modern annotations on the Ripley Scroll with several other manuscripts Dun donated to the Bodleian. Ellen’s work offers a kind of microhistory, providing an insight into attitudes towards alchemy in the period.

Thanks to funding Ellen procured as part of her Master’s research, the manuscript is now available to view online.

“I am delighted and deeply honoured to have won the 2023 Jane Willis Kirkaldy Senior Prize,” said Ellen. “That the Prize was given to me in the first term of my DPhil is particularly welcome and gives me great encouragement regarding the direction of my doctoral research. As a mature student in my 50s, starting a full-time doctorate was an important life decision; the Prize comes as a welcome confirmation of my choice in a new career. I am very grateful to the Committee for the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology for selecting my essay and for the financial contribution which accompanies the Prize.”

The prize has run since 1936 and is named in honour of Jane Willis Kirkaldy (1867/9-1932), one of the first women to achieve first-class honours in natural sciences at the University of Oxford. Kirkaldy became a researcher and science educator following her degree, becoming a tutor to female students in the School of Natural Sciences, Director of Studies at all five of the women’s colleges, and an honorary fellow of Somerville College. She died in 1932, endowing the prize in her will.