THE story of a “forthright” 20th-century North Yorkshire woman who became an authority on botany despite never receiving a single lesson has been uncovered in university archives.

Catherine Muriel ‘Kit’ Rob’s extraordinary achievements began with a childhood fascination for flora that would see her become an expert in her field in later life.

Born at Catton Hall near Thirsk, Ms Rob did not get the chance for a university education like her two brothers, but her passion for the scientific study and conservation of plants saw her become a member of the Wild Flower Society (WFS) at the age of 17.

Papers unearthed at the University of York have now shed fresh light on Ms Rob’s fascinating career at a time when men dominated areas of scientific research.

The archives, which include letters and diaries, illustrate Ms Rob’s commitment to supporting other budding botanists.

They also reveal the network of local, regional and national botanists that she helped to develop during her time as branch secretary of the WFS over several decades.

Ms Rob joined the Yorkshire Naturalists’ Union in 1934 and soon became the County Recorder for the North Riding.

This involved collecting and assimilating field recordings from amateur botanists to form a comprehensive body of botanical data.

She held this office uninterruptedly for 37-years, and later served the Union as both Chairman and President.

But perhaps her most notable achievement was becoming the President of the Botanical Society of the British Isles who helped compile the iconic Colins Pocket Guide to British Wildflowers.

Lydia Dean, archivist at York University’s Borthwick Institute who stumbled across the archives, said: “The papers convey a real sense of Kit’s personality as a forthright Yorkshire woman with a refreshing outlook on life.

“As we mark International Women’s Day, it’s wonderful to celebrate a remarkable woman who became an authority on North Yorkshire botany despite living in a time period with limited opportunities for female scientists.”

Ms Rob died in February 1975, just before her 69th birthday.