Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin

Dorothy Mary Crowfoot Hodgkin
Enlarge picture
Dorothy Hodgkin with a ball-stick representation of insulin, courtesy of Pugwash Conferences on Science & World Affairs.

Dorothy Hodgkin with a ball-stick representation of insulin, courtesy of Pugwash Conferences on Science & World Affairs.
BornMay 12, 1910
- Cairo, Egypt
DiedJuly 29 1994 (aged 84)
FieldMedical scientist
Alma materChemistry at Somerville College, Oxford
University of Cambridge
Academic advisor  John Desmond Bernal
Known forBritish founder of protein crystallography
Notable prizes Nobel Prize in Chemistry (1964), She was a recipient of the Order of Merit, a Fellow of the Royal Society and was Chancellor of Bristol University from 1970 to 1988.
Dorothy Mary Crowfoot Hodgkin, OM , FRS (12 May 191029 July 1994) was a British founder 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 determination of the structure of penicillin, insulin, and vitamin B12, for which she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. In 1969, after 35 years of work, Hodgkin was able to decipher the structure of insulin. 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: The list is not exhaustive, it rather highlights major milestones.

Early years

She was born Dorothy Mary Crowfoot in May 12, 1910 in Cairo, Egypt, to John Crowfoot, excavator and scholar of classics, and Grace Mary Crowfoot née Hood. 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, Suffolk. She traveled 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. Aged 18, she started studying chemistry at Somerville College, Oxford, then one of the Oxford University colleges for women only.

She also studied at Cambridge University 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, University of Oxford, a post which she held until 1977. In 1960 she was appointed Wolfson Research Professor at the Royal Society.

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 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.

Private life

Hodgkin's scientific mentor J.D. 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" 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 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 chidlren are still alive today.

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.

Honours

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

References

  • 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.

Obituary notices

  • Dodson, Guy (Structure 2: 891-893, 1994)
  • Glusker, Jenny P. (Protein Science 3: 2465-2469, 1994)
  • Glusker, Jenny P., and Margaret J. Adams (Physics Today 48: 80-81, 1995)
  • Johnson, Louise N. (FRS), and David Phillips (Nature Structural Biology 1: 573-576, 1994)
  • Perutz, Max F. (Quarterly Review of Biophysics 27: 333-337, 1994)
  • Nature 371: 20, 1994.
  • Royal Society of Edinburgh obituary

External links

Awards
Preceded by
Karl Ziegler and Giulio Natta
Nobel Prize in Chemistry
1964
Succeeded by
Robert Burns Woodward
Academic offices
Preceded by
The Duke of Beaufort
Chancellor of the University of Bristol
1970-1988
Succeeded by
Sir Jeremy Morse


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University of Cambridge (often Cambridge University), located in Cambridge, England, is the second-oldest university in the English-speaking world and has a reputation as one of the world's most prestigious universities.
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John Desmond Bernal (May 10, 1901—September 15, 1971) was an Irish-born scientist (from Nenagh, County Tipperary), known for pioneering X-ray crystallography.

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X-ray crystallography is the science of determining the arrangement of atoms within a crystal from the manner in which a beam of X-rays is scattered from the electrons within the crystal.
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University of Bristol is a university in Bristol, England. It received its Royal Charter in 1909,[10] although its predecessor institution, University College, Bristol,had been in existence since 1876.
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Order of Merit is a British and Commonwealth Order bestowed by the Monarch. It was established in 1902 by King Edward VII (based on the Prussian Pour le Mérite) as a reward for distinguished service in the armed forces, science, art, literature, or for the promotion of
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Fellow of the Royal Society is an honour accorded to distinguished scientists and a category of membership of the Royal Society. Fellows are entitled to put the letters FRS after their name.

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X-ray crystallography is the science of determining the arrangement of atoms within a crystal from the manner in which a beam of X-rays is scattered from the electrons within the crystal.
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X-ray crystallography is the science of determining the arrangement of atoms within a crystal from the manner in which a beam of X-rays is scattered from the electrons within the crystal.
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Penicillin (sometimes abbreviated PCN) is a group of beta-lactam antibiotics used in the treatment of bacterial infections caused by susceptible, usually Gram-positive, organisms.
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''Note: This article title may be easily confused with inulin.


Insulin is an animal hormone whose presence informs the body's cells that the animal is well fed, causing liver and muscle cells to take in glucose and store it in the form of glycogen, and
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Cyanocobalamin is a compound that is metabolized to a vitamin in the B complex commonly known as vitamin B 12 (or B 12 for short).

Vitamin B 12
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