Sir Francis Ronalds and his Family

Dr Edmund Ronalds

Bonnington House in Edinburgh where Dr Edmund and his family lived in the period 1868-1889. This engraving is from Cassell's Old and new Edinburgh (1887).

Sir Francis' nephew Dr Edmund Ronalds (1819-1889) was an academic and industrial chemist and, having shared scientific interests, the two men were very close. Dr Edmund was also close to his aunt Emily, who visited him for a considerable period during his studies in Germany towards his Doctorate.

Dr Edmund became a lecturer at the Middlesex Hospital in London and then the inaugural professor of chemistry at Queens College (now the National University of Ireland) in Galway. He resigned to run the important Bonnington Chemical Works in Edinburgh.

During his medical research, he published new findings on the constituents of human bile and urine that were of value in clinical tests. He was later a pioneer in incorporating advanced research into a manufacturing firm, including being the first to isolate ethane, butane and propane dissolved in crude oil.

Arguably his most important publication was a series of books with Thomas Richardson in the period 1848-1855 entitled Chemical Technology. Recognised as standard texts, these effectively brought the word "technology" into the English language and introduced university teaching of chemistry applications for industry, which evolved into the discipline of chemical engineering in the 20th century.

Dr Edmund and his wife Barbara Christian née Tennent had six children. Their two older sons later wintered each year in Florida; Dr Tennent Ronalds (1859-1924) - an obstetrician - hunted, fished and built a private golf course on his Live Oak Plantation and both eventually died there.

Further Information

Bringing Together Academic and Industrial Chemistry: Edmund Ronalds' Contribution (2019)
- published in Substantia

Bonnington Chemical Works (1822-1878): Pioneer Coal Tar Company (2019) - published by the Newcomen Society

Sir Francis Ronalds: Father of the Electric Telegraph (2016) - published by Imperial College Press

Dr Edmund Ronalds' entry in the Dictionary of National Biography

Some of Dr Edmund's publications:

Volatile compounds in Light Petroleum (1864) - published by the Royal Society of Edinburgh

Chemical Technology (1855) - one of a series of textbooks

Constituents of Urine (1846) - published by the Royal Society