- Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin
name = Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin
imagesize = 180px
caption = Dorothy Hodgkin with a ball-stick representation of insulin
May 12, 1910
death_date = death date and age|1994|07|29|1910|05|12
Somerville College, Oxford University of Cambridge
John Desmond Bernal
known_for = discovery of
Nobel Prize in Chemistry(1964)
Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin, born Dorothy Mary Crowfoot OM, FRS (
12 May 1910– 29 July 1994) was a British chemist, credited with the discovery of protein crystallography
She pioneered 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 Ernst Boris Chainhad 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 structure of many biological molecules such as DNAwhere knowledge of structure is critical to a understanding of function. She is regarded as one of the foremost scientists in the field of X-Ray crystallography studies of natural molecules. Besides her extraordinary scientific abilities, she was unassuming, very communicative, and passionate about social inequalities and peace.
Timeline of her discoveries
Hodgkin determined the three-dimensional structures of the following biomolecules:
vitamin B12in 1954
* as well as
lactoglobulin, ferritin, and tobacco mosaic virus.
The list is not exhaustive, it rather highlights major milestones.
Dorothy was born in
May 12, 1910in 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 Iin 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 LemanGrammar School in Beccles, Suffolk. She travelled abroad frequently to visit her parents in Cairo and Khartoum. Both her father and her mother had a strong influence with their Puritanethic 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
chemistryat Somerville College, Oxford, then one of the University of Oxfordcolleges for women only.
She also studied at the
University of Cambridgeunder 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 1960 she was appointed Wolfson Research Professor at the
Insulinwas 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 hormonecaptured 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 above) 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. She considered solving the structure of insulin her greatest scientific achievement.
Hodgkin's scientific mentor
Professor John Desmond Bernalgreatly influenced her life both scientifically and politically. He was a distinguished scientist of great repute in the scientific world, a member of the Communistparty, and a faithful supporter of successive Sovietregimes until their invasion of Hungary. She always referred to him as "Sage" and loved and admired him unreservedly; intermittently, they were lovers. The conventional marriages of both Bernal and Hodgkin were far from smooth.
In 1937, Dorothy married Thomas Lionel Hodgkin who was also a one-time member of the Communist party, as well as a charming, intelligent, energetic and impulsive suitor. She also loved him and always consulted him concerning important problems and decisions. Dorothy bore quietly the many difficulties of these situations. He later had a varied career as a schoolteacher, worker's educationist, historian and economist. He became an advisor in 1961 to
Kwame Nkrumah, President of Ghana, where he remained for extended periods, often visited by her. The couple had three children. All three children are still alive today. One has a girl named Alexandra Dorothy after their grandmother.
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.
Apart from the Nobel Prize, she was a recipient of the
Order of Merit, 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 Hackneyare named Dorothy Hodgkin House.
* Dorothy Hodgkin was one of five 'Women of Achievement' selected for a set of British stamps issued in August 1996. The other were
Marea Hartman(sports administrator), Margot Fonteyn(ballerina / choreographer), Elizabeth Frink(sculptor) & Daphne Du Maurier(writer)
*Ferry, Georgina. 1998. "Dorothy Hodgkin A Life". Granta Books, London.
*Dodson, Guy. 2002. "Dorothy Mary Hodgkin, OM". Biographical Memoir, The Royal Society, 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 [http://www.cambridge.org/us/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=9780521821971 Out of the Shadows] - Contributions of 20th Century Women to Physics.
*cite journal | title=Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin (1910-1994) | author=Glusker, Jenny P. | journal= Protein Science | volume=3 | issue= | pages=2465–2469 | year=1994 | url=http://protsci.highwire.org/cgi/reprint/3/12/2465 | doi=
*cite journal | title=Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin | author=Glusker, Jenny P., Margaret J. Adams | journal= Physics Today | volume=48 | issue= | pages=80–81 | year=1995 | url= | doi=10.1063/1.2808036
*cite journal | title=Professor Dorothy Hodgkin, OM, FRS | author=Louise N. Johnson, David Phillips | journal= Nature Structural & Molecular Biology | volume=1 | issue= | pages=573–576 | year=1994 | url=http://www.nature.com/nsmb/journal/v1/n9/pdf/nsb0994-573.pdf | doi=
*Perutz, Max F. ("Quarterly Review of Biophysics" 27: 333-337, 1994)
*"Nature" 371: 20, 1994.
* [http://www.royalsoced.org.uk/fellowship/obits/obits_alpha/hodgkin_dorothy.pdf Royal Society of Edinburgh obituary]
*cite journal | title=Dorothy Mary Crowfoot Hodgkin, O.M. 12 May 1910--29 July 1994 | author=Guy Dodson | journal= Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society | volume=48 | issue= | pages=179–219 | year=2002 | url=http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0080-4606%28200212%2948%3C179%3ADMCHO1%3E2.0.CO%3B2-I | doi=
* [http://cwp.library.ucla.edu/Phase2/Hodgkin,_Dorothy_Crowfoot@841234567.html CWP] - Dorothy Hodgkin in a study of contributions of women to physics
* [http://www.pugwash.org/reports/pim/hodgkin.htm Review of Ferry's biography on the Pugwash website]
* [http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9040680/Dorothy-Crowfoot-Hodgkin Encyclopaedia Britannica, Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin]
* [http://www.sdsc.edu/ScienceWomen/hodgkin.html Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin: A Founder of Protein Crystallography]
* [http://nobelprize.org/chemistry/laureates/1964/index.html Nobel Prize 1964 page]
* [http://uk.geocities.com/hertouyt/milko/hodgkin-speech.html Her determinations by X-ray techniques of the structures of important biochemical substances.]
* [http://www.rcuk.ac.uk/hodgkin/default.htm Dorothy Hodgkin Postgraduate Awards]
NAME= Hodgkin, Dorothy Mary Crowfoot
ALTERNATIVE NAMES= Crowfoot, Dorothy Mary
SHORT DESCRIPTION= Medical scientist
DATE OF BIRTH=
12 May 1910
PLACE OF BIRTH=
DATE OF DEATH=
PLACE OF DEATH=
Ilmington, Warwickshire, England
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