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Dorothy Hodgkin

Nobel Prize winner

Dorothy Hodgkin

Dorothy Mary Crowfoot was born to John Winter Crowfoot and Grace Mary Hood Crowfoot in Cairo, Egypt, on May 12, 1910. John Crowfoot worked for the Egyptian Education Service as a school inspector and later on moved to Sudan where he became Director of Education and Director of Antiquities. He retired from his career in Sudan in 1926 and focused on archaeology. He became director of the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem, Israel, and worked on excavations in Samaria, Bosra, and Mount Ophel. Grace Mary was a botanist and took time to illustrate the different flora found in Sudan, and was also very much involved in her husband's work. Although her formal schooling took place at the Sir John Leman School in Beccles, Suffolk, England (1921-28), Dorothy spent a significant part of her youth in the Middle East and North Africa, and helped on a few of her father's digs.

Despite her early exposure to and fascination for archaeology, Crowfoot was most interested in chemistry. She read chemistry at Somerville College, Oxford University from 1928 to 1932, and then moved to Cambridge University to earn her PhD. In 1933, she and John Desmond Bernal took the first x-ray photograph of a protein, pepsin. She received her PhD from Cambridge in 1937, the same year she married Thomas Hodgkin, a specialist in the governments of emergent states; two sons and a daughter were born to the union.

Principal Scientific Work

Using x-ray cystallography, Hodgkin discovered three-dimensional biomolecular structures and published the structure of the steroid cholesteryl iodide in 1945. She also worked on the structure of penicillin with her colleagues and published her results in 1949. Her work on vitamin B12 was published in 1954. It was for this body of work that she received the 1964 Nobel Prize for Chemistry. She was the third woman to be so honored, after Marie Curie and Irène Joliot-Curie.

Hodgkin was also among those who worked on the structure of insulin. Work on this specific project took 35 years, as they started studying the crystalline insulin sample provided by Robert Robinson in 1934, when x-ray crystallography was not yet fully developed. Results were finally published in 1969.

Other Achievements

Hodgkin was given a research fellowship from Somerville College, Oxford in 1933. She was also Somerville’s first fellow and tutor in chemistry, a position she held from 1936 to 1977. During this period, she tutored Margaret Roberts, who went on to become Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. She became a fellow of the Royal Society in 1947, a royal medalist in 1956, the Society's first Wolfson Research Professor in 1960, and a recipient of its Copley Medal in 1976. In 1965 she became the second woman to receive the Order of Merit, the first of which was given to Florence Nightingale. She served as Chancellor of Bristol University from 1970 to 1988, and as president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science from September 1977 to September 1978.

Dorothy Mary Crowfoot Hodgkin died in Shipston-on-Stour, Warwickshire, England, on July 29, 1994.

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Nobel Prize for Chemistry
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This page was last updated on 12/12/2017.