Chemistry

Biography Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin



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Dorothy Hodgkin, (nee Crowfoot) born on May 12, 1910, was a chemist who is credited with significant contributions to the field of protein crystallography.

Born in Cairo, Egypt to British parents, she spent much of her early life in Egypt and returned to England very occasionally. She stayed in England during the first world war, under the care of family.

Hodgkin entered grammar school in 1921, though she visited her parents often in Cairo and Khartoum.

Hodgkin had a strong interest in science from a young age, and at age 18 she began studying chemistry at Somerville College in Oxford. Later, she studied at the University of Cambridge, where she was introduced to X-ray crystallography to determine protein structures.

Hodgkin moved back to Oxford in 1934, and in 1936 became a research fellow at Somerville College. She held the position until 1977.

Hodgkin married Thomas Lionel Hodgkin in 1937. He was an Oxford lecturer with Communist leanings, and because of this Hodgkin was not able to enter the United States except with a CIA waiver.

They had three children together, Luke, Elizabeth and Toby. Thomas became an advisor to the President of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah, in 1961. Hodgkin remained in England.

Hodgkin had a long-running affair with her friend and mentor John Desmond Bernal. Both Bernal’s wife and Hodgkin’s husband knew about it, but things did not always run smoothly.

In 1953, Hodgkin was one of the first people to see the model of DNA struture, made by Francis Crick and James Watson. Hodgkin was appointed Wolfson Research Professor at the Royal Society.

Her most significant research subject was insulin. She managed to resolve its structure in 1969, and established its importance in the subject of diabetes.

Still, she is most famous for her contributions to the field of X-ray crystallography, and she also discovered the structure of penicillin and the vitamin B12 molecule. She is regarded as a pioneer in the world of biomolecular crystallography.

Hodgkin received the Order of Merit, the Copley Medal, the Lenin Peace Prize, was a Fellow of the Royal Society, and received the Nobel Prize in Chemisrty in 1964.

She was Chancellor of Bristol University from 1970 to 1988, and there are several council offices and buildings at Bristol and Keele university named after her. There is also an award given to early-stage researchers at the Royal Society- the Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowship.

Hodgkin died on the 29th of July, 1994.

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