Dorothy Hodgkin

Dorothy Hodgkin
Dorothy Hodgkin
Born 12 May 1910(1910-05-12)
Cairo, Egypt
Died 29 July 1994(1994-07-29) (aged 84)
Ilmington, Warwickshire, England, UK
Nationality United Kingdom
Fields Biochemistry
Institutions University of Oxford
Alma mater Somerville College, Oxford
University of Cambridge
Doctoral advisor John Desmond Bernal[1]
Doctoral students Judith Howard, Tom Blundell[2]
Other notable students Margaret Thatcher[3]
Known for Development of Protein crystallography
Determining the structure of Insulin
Notable awards Nobel Prize in Chemistry (1964)
Copley Medal (1976)

Dorothy Mary Hodgkin OM, FRS (12 May 1910 – 29 July 1994), née Crowfoot, was a British chemist, credited with the development of protein crystallography.[4][5][6][7][8][9]

She advanced the technique of X-ray crystallography, a method used to determine the three dimensional structures of biomolecules. Among her most influential discoveries are the confirmation of the structure of penicillin that Ernst Boris Chain had previously surmised, and then the structure of vitamin B12, for which she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

In 1969, after 35 years of work and five years after winning the Nobel Prize, Hodgkin was able to decipher the structure of insulin. X-ray crystallography became a widely used tool and was critical in later determining the structures of many biological molecules such as DNA where knowledge of structure is critical to an understanding of function. She is regarded as one of the pioneer scientists in the field of X-ray crystallography studies of biomolecules.


Early years

Dorothy Mary Crowfoot was born on 12 May 1910 in Cairo, Egypt, to John Winter Crowfoot (1873 – 1959), excavator and scholar of classics, and Grace Mary Hood (1877 – 1957). For the first four years of her life she lived as an English expatriate in Asia Minor, returning to England only a few months each year. She spent the period of World War I in the UK under the care of relatives and friends, but separated from her parents. After the war, her mother decided to stay home in England and educate her children, a period that Hodgkin later described as the happiest in her life.

In 1921, she entered the Sir John Leman Grammar School in Beccles, England. She travelled abroad frequently to visit her parents in Cairo and Khartoum. Both her father and her mother had a strong influence with their Puritan ethic of selflessness and service to humanity which reverberated in her later achievements.

Education and research

She developed a passion for chemistry from a young age, and her mother fostered her interest in science in general. Her excellent early education prepared her well for university. At age 18 she started studying chemistry at Somerville College, Oxford, then one of the University of Oxford colleges for women only.[citation needed]

She also studied at the University of Cambridge under the tutelage of John Desmond Bernal, where she became aware of the potential of X-ray crystallography to determine the structure of proteins.

In 1934, she moved back to Oxford and two years later, in 1936, she became a research fellow at Somerville College, a post which she held until 1977. In the 1940s, one of her students was future Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who installed a portrait of Hodgkin in Downing Street in the 1980s.[citation needed]

Together with Sydney Brenner, Jack Dunitz, Leslie Orgel, and Beryl M. Oughton, she was one of the first people in April 1953 to see the model of the structure of DNA, constructed by Francis Crick and James Watson; at the time she and the other scientists were working at Cambridge University's Cavendish Laboratory.

In 1960 she was appointed Wolfson Research Professor at the Royal Society.[citation needed]

Insulin structure

Insulin was one of her most extraordinary research projects. It began in 1934 when she was offered a small sample of crystalline insulin by Robert Robinson. The hormone captured her imagination because of the intricate and wide-ranging effect it has in the body. However, at this stage X-ray crystallography had not been developed far enough to cope with the complexity of the insulin molecule. She and others spent many years improving the technique. Larger and more complex molecules were being tackled (see timeline below) until in 1969 – 35 years later – the structure of insulin was finally resolved. But her quest was not finished then. She cooperated with other laboratories active in insulin research, gave advice, and travelled the world giving talks about insulin and its importance for diabetes.

Private life

Hodgkin's scientific mentor Professor John Desmond Bernal greatly influenced her life both scientifically and politically. He was a distinguished scientist of great repute in the scientific world, a member of the Communist party, and a faithful supporter of successive Soviet regimes until their invasion of Hungary. She always referred to him as "Sage"; intermittently, they were lovers. The conventional marriages of both Bernal and Hodgkin were far from smooth.[10]

In 1937, Dorothy married Thomas Lionel Hodgkin, then recently returned from working for the Colonial Office and moving into adult education.[11] He later became a well-known Oxford Lecturer, author of several fundamental Africanist books and a one-time member of the Communist party.[citation needed] She always consulted him concerning important problems and decisions. In 1961 Thomas became an advisor to Kwame Nkrumah, President of Ghana, where he remained for extended periods, and where she often visited him. The couple had three children. Because of her political activity and her husband's association with the Communist Party, she was not allowed to enter the US except by CIA waiver.[citation needed] The couple had three children Luke (born 1938), Elizabeth (born 1941) and Toby (born 1946).

Social activities

Despite her scientific specialisation and excellence she was by no means a single-minded and one-sided scientist. She received many honours but was more interested in exchange with other scientists. She often employed her intelligence to think about other people's problems and was concerned about social inequalities and stopping conflict. As a consequence she was President of Pugwash from 1976 to 1988.[12]


Order of Merit medal of Dorothy Hodgkin, displayed in the Royal Society, London.

Apart from the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1964, she was a recipient of the Order of Merit, a recipient of the Copley Medal, a Fellow of the Royal Society, The Lenin Peace Prize, and was Chancellor of Bristol University from 1970 to 1988.

Council offices in the London Borough of Hackney and buildings at Bristol University and Keele University are named after her.

The Royal Society has established the prestigious Dorothy Hodgkin fellowship for early career stage researchers.[citation needed]

Cultural references

Dorothy Hodgkin was one of five 'Women of Achievement' selected for a set of British stamps issued in August 1996. The others were Marea Hartman (sports administrator), Margot Fonteyn (ballerina/choreographer), Elisabeth Frink (sculptor) & Daphne du Maurier (writer). All except Hodgkin were Dames Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBEs). In 2010, during its 350th anniversary, the Royal Society celebrated with the publication of 10 stamps of some of its most illustrious members, bestowing Professor Hodgkin with her second stamp. She was in the company of nine men: Benjamin Franklin, Edward Jenner, Joseph Lister, Isaac Newton, Robert Boyle, Ernest Rutherford, Nicholas Shackleton, Charles Babbage, Alfred Russel Wallace.

Dorothy Hodgkin Memorial Lecture

An annual memorial lecture is held every March in honour of Hodgkins work, past speakers have included

  1. Professor Louise Johnson, "Dorothy Hodgkin and penicillin", 4/3/99.
  2. Professor Judith Howard, "The Interface of Chemistry and Biology Increasingly in Focus", *13/03/00.
  3. Professor Jenny Glusker, "Vitamin B12 and Dorothy: Their impact on structural science", 15/05/01.
  4. Professor Pauline Harrison CBE, From Crystallography to Metals, Metabolism and Medicine, 05/03/02.
  5. Dr Claire Naylor, Pathogenic Proteins : how bacterial agents cause disease, 04/03/03.
  6. Dr Margaret Adams, "A Piece in the Jigsaw: G6PD – The protein behind an hereditary disease", 09/03/04.
  7. Dr. Margaret Rayman, "Selenium in cancer prevention", 10/03/05.
  8. Dr Elena Conti, "Making sense of nonsense: structural studies of RNA degradation and disease", 09/03/06.
  9. Professor Jenny Martin, "The name's Bond – Disulphide Bond", 06/03/07.
  10. Professor E. Yvonne Jones, "Postcards from the surface: The Structural Biology of Cell-Cell Communication, 04/03/08.
  11. Professor Pamela J. Bjorkman, "Your mother's antibodies: How you get them and how we might improve them to combat HIV", 11/03/09.
  12. Professor Elspeth Garman, "Crystallography 100 years A.D (After Dorothy)" 09/03/2010.
  13. Professor Eleanor Dodson "Mathematics in the service of Crystallography" 10/03/2011.

Timeline of her discoveries

Hodgkin determined the three-dimensional structures of the following biomolecules:


  1. ^ Hodgkin, D. M. C. (1980). "John Desmond Bernal. 10 May 1901-15 September 1971". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society 26: 16. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1980.0002.  edit
  2. ^ Blundell, T.; Cutfield, J.; Cutfield, S.; Dodson, E.; Dodson, G.; Hodgkin, D.; Mercola, D.; Vijayan, M. (1971). "Atomic positions in rhombohedral 2-zinc insulin crystals". Nature 231 (5304): 506–511. Bibcode 1971Natur.231..506B. doi:10.1038/231506a0. PMID 4932997.  edit
  3. ^ Young, Hugo (1989). One of us: a biography of Margaret Thatcher. New York: Macmillan. ISBN 0-333-34439-1. 
  4. ^ Dodson, G. (2002). "Dorothy Mary Crowfoot Hodgkin, O.M. 12 May 1910 - 29 July 1994". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society 48: 179–219. doi:10.1098/rsbm.2002.0011.  edit
  5. ^ Glusker, J. P. (1994). "Dorothy crowfoot hodgkin (1910-1994)". Protein Science 3 (12): 2465–2469. doi:10.1002/pro.5560031233. PMC 2142778. PMID 7757003.  edit
  6. ^ Glusker, J. P.; Adams, M. J. (1995). "Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin". Physics Today 48 (5): 80. doi:10.1063/1.2808036.  edit
  7. ^ Johnson, L. N.; Phillips, D. (1994). "Professor Dorothy Hodgkin, OM, FRS". Nature Structural Biology 1 (9): 573–576. doi:10.1038/nsb0994-573. PMID 7634095.  edit
  8. ^ Perutz, M. (1994). "OBITUARY: Dorothy Hodgkin (1910�94)". Nature 371 (6492): 20–20. doi:10.1038/371020a0.  edit
  9. ^ Perutz, M. (2009). "Professor Dorothy Hodgkin". Quarterly Reviews of Biophysics 27 (4): 333. doi:10.1017/S0033583500003085.  edit
  10. ^ Dorothy Hodkin: A Life by Georgina Ferry
  11. ^ 'Mr Thomas Hodgkin', The Times, 26 March 1982
  12. ^ Howard, J. A. K. (2003). "Timeline: Dorothy Hodgkin and her contributions to biochemistry". Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology 4 (11): 891–896. doi:10.1038/nrm1243. PMID 14625538.  edit
  13. ^ "Structure of Rhombohedral 2 Zinc Insulin Crystals", Nature, 1969, doi:10.1038/224491a0 

See also

  • Ferry, Georgina. 1998. Dorothy Hodgkin A Life. Granta Books, London.
  • Dodson, Guy, Jenny P. Glusker, and David Sayre (eds.). 1981. Structural Studies on Molecules of Biological Interest: A Volume in Honour of Professor Dorothy Hodgkin. Oxford: The Clarendon Press.
  • Glusker, Jenny P. in Out of the Shadows – Contributions of 20th Century Women to Physics.
  • Wolfers, Michael, Thomas Hodgkin. Wandering scholar. A biography., Merlin Press, 2007
  • Royal Society of Edinburgh obituary

External links

Academic offices
Preceded by
The Duke of Beaufort
Chancellor of the University of Bristol
Succeeded by
Sir Jeremy Morse

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Dorothy Hodgkin — Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin. Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin OM, geborene Dorothy Mary Crowfoot (* 12. Mai 1910 in Kairo; † 29. Juli 1994 in Shipston on Stour, England) war eine englische Biochemikerin. Für ihre Analyse der Struktur des Vitamins B12… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Dorothy Hodgkin — Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin Dorothy Mary Crowfoot Hodgkin, (12 mai 1910 29 juillet 1994) est une chimiste britannique. Elle est une pionnière de la diffractométrie de rayons X, méthode de cristallographie permettant de déterminer la géométrie en… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Dorothy Hodgkin — noun English chemist (born in Egypt) who used crystallography to study the structure of organic compounds (1910 1994) • Syn: ↑Hodgkin, ↑Dorothy Mary Crowfoot Hodgkin • Instance Hypernyms: ↑chemist * * * Dorothy Hodgkin …   Useful english dictionary

  • Dorothy Hodgkin — Hodgkin , Dorothy Crowfoot …   Scientists

  • Dorothy Hodgkin — ➡ Hodgkin * * * …   Universalium

  • Chemienobelpreis 1964: Dorothy Hodgkin-Crowfoot —   Die Britin erhielt den Nobelpreis für die Entschlüsselung von biochemischen Molekularstrukturen mithilfe der Röntgenkristallographie.    Biografie   Dorothy Hodgkin Crowfoot, * Kairo 12. 5. 1910, ✝ Shipston on Stour (Warwickshire, England) 29.… …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin — OM, geborene Dorothy Mary Crowfoot (* 12. Mai 1910 in Kairo; † 29. Juli 1994 in Shipston on Stour, England) war eine britische Biochemikerin. Für ihre Analyse der Struktur des Vitamins B12 erhielt sie 1964 den Nobelpreis für Chemie. 1987 wurde… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Dorothy M. Hodgkin — Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin. Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin OM, geborene Dorothy Mary Crowfoot (* 12. Mai 1910 in Kairo; † 29. Juli 1994 in Shipston on Stour, England) war eine englische Biochemikerin. Für ihre Analyse der Struktur des Vitamins B12… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Dorothy Mary Crowfoot Hodgkin — Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin. Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin OM, geborene Dorothy Mary Crowfoot (* 12. Mai 1910 in Kairo; † 29. Juli 1994 in Shipston on Stour, England) war eine englische Biochemikerin. Für ihre Analyse der Struktur des Vitamins B12… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Dorothy Mary Hodgkin — Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin. Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin OM, geborene Dorothy Mary Crowfoot (* 12. Mai 1910 in Kairo; † 29. Juli 1994 in Shipston on Stour, England) war eine englische Biochemikerin. Für ihre Analyse der Struktur des Vitamins B12… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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