Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin

Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin was born on May 12, 191 0 in Cairo Egypt. Her father was an archaeologist serving for the Egyptian Ministry of Education in Khartoum. Her mother was a self-trained amateur on botany and a nature artist expert on Coptic textiles.

Dr. Hodgkin spent the majority of her life in England and worked at universities such as Oxford and Cambridge. Her husband, Dr. Thomas Hodgkin was an expert of African Affairs. She had three children who chose careers in academics. Her eldest son became professor of mathematics. Her daughter taught at a girl's school in Zambia. Her youngest son volunteered for a service similar to the Peace Corps.

Some interesting anecdotes about Dr. Hodgkin is that when she received a letter from Buckingham Palace she left it sealed fearing the title of "Darne." Dr. Hodgkin was later relieved to find that she had been offered the Order of Merit, which is a much greater honor. During her work at Oxford University Dr. Hodgkin was banned from research meetings for the faculty chemistry club because she was a woman. With time, talent, and perseverance she won over the students and faculty and was allowed to attend the meetings. In a BBC radio interview she was asked whether being a woman had hindered her career. She answered "men were always particularly nice and helpful to me because I was a woman."

The area of science that Dr. Hodgkin was involved with was Crystallography. Crystallography is a combination of math, physics, and chemistry. It is the physical science of x-ray. With her work in Crystallography, Dr. Hodgkin was able to make important discoveries in proteins, insulin, penicillin, vitamin B-12, and many more. Around the mid 1950's Hodgkin’s husband traveled a lot and Dorothy had a lab she ran along with her research group that consisted of approximately ten workers. Hodgkin’s lab was cluttered and informal just like her house. At the age of 54 she was the fifth woman and the first British woman to win a Nobel Prize in Science.

Some of Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin's accomplishments are that she was the first scientist who was able to determine the structure of the protein insulin. With her discoveries with insulin it has helped many people with diabetes improve their lives. In 1945 she was the first person to use a computer for a biochemical problem to help her with calculations. Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin was also able to determine the chemical formula of penicillin. This was an important discovery because penicillin is needed to control infections. Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin was able to determine the atom arrangement of vitamin B-12.

Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin has been honored with many awards. She received the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1964. She was given the award for her research on the structure of vitamin B-12. She was the third woman and the first British woman to win this award. In 1965 she was awarded a membership in the Order of Merit. This is the United Kingdom's highest royal order. Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin was elected Chancellor of Bristol University. She helped to establish the Hodgkin Scholarship that aided students from Third World countries, and she founded the Hodgkin House that accommodated overseas students.

Some interesting facts about Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin was that one of her students was former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin was considered to be a warm and caring person who opened her house to all types of people. She kept close friendships with scientists from all over the world and cared deeply for Third World countries and kept an open scientific dialogue between them and the west.




Bertsch, Sharon McGrayne. Nobel Prize Women in Science. A Birch Lane Press Book. Published by Carol Publishing Group ©1993.


Rosemary Wood


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