Dorothy Mary Hodgkin, (12 May 1910 – 29 July 1994), was a British biochemist, credited with the development of protein crystallography. She was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1964. She advanced 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 that Ernst Boris Chain and Edward Abraham had previously surmised, and then the structure of vitamin B12, for which she became the third woman to win 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 structures of many biological molecules where knowledge of structure is critical to an understanding of function. She is regarded as one of the pioneer scientists in the field of X-ray crystallography studies of biomolecules.
Born in Cairo, Egypt, to John Winter Crowfoot (1873–1959), an archaeologist and classical scholar, andGrace Mary Crowfoot née Hood (1877–1957), an archaeologist and expert on Ancient Egyptian textiles. She lived in the English expatriate community in Egypt, returning to England only a few months each year.
She developed a passion for chemistry from a young age, and her mother fostered her interest in science in general. Her state school education left her without Latin or a further science subject, but she took private tuition in order to enter theUniversity of Oxford entrance examination. At the age of 18 she started studying chemistry at the University of Oxford(Somerville College, Oxford).
She studied for a Doctor of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge under the supervision of John Desmond Bernal, where she became aware of the potential of X-ray crystallography to determine the structure of proteins, working with him on the technique's first application to the analysis of a biological substance, pepsin.
In 1933 she was awarded a research fellowship by Somerville College, and in 1934, she moved back to Oxford. The college appointed her its first fellow and tutor in chemistry in 1936, a post which she held until 1977. In the 1940s, one of her students was Margaret Roberts, the future Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher,who installed a portrait of Hodgkin in Downing Street in the 1980s.
Together with Sydney Brenner, Jack Dunitz, Leslie Orgel, and Beryl M. Oughton, she was one of the first people in April 1953 to travel from Oxford to Cambridge to see the model of the structure of DNA, constructed by Francis Crick and James Watson, based on data acquired by Rosalind Franklin.
Hodgkin's scientific mentor Professor John Desmond Bernal greatly influenced her life both scientifically and politically. In 1937, Dorothy married Thomas Lionel Hodgkin, then recently returned from working for the Colonial Office and moving into adult education. She always consulted him concerning important problems and decisions. In 1961. Because of her political activity and her husband's association with the Communist Party, she was banned from entering the US in 1953 and subsequently not allowed to visit the country except by CIA waiver.
At the age of 24, Hodgkin began experiencing pain in her hands. A visit to a doctor led to a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritiswhich would become progressively worse and crippling over time with deformities in both her hands and feet. Eventually, Hodgkin spent a great deal of time in a wheelchair but continued to persevere despite her disability.
Despite her scientific specialisation, she was also concerned about social inequalities and stopping conflict. As a consequence she was President of Pugwash from 1976 to 1988. On July 29, 1994, Hodgkin died due to cardiac stroke at her home in Warwickshire.
Apart from the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1964, she was the second woman recipient of the Order of Merit in 1965 (preceded only by Florence Nightingale), the first woman recipient of the Copley Medal, a Fellow of the Royal Society, a winner of the Lenin Peace Prize, and was Chancellor of Bristol University from 1970 to 1988. She was awarded an Honorary Degree (Doctor of Science) from the University of Bath in 1978. In 1983, Hodgkin received the Austrian Decoration for Science and Art.
In 1945, working with C. H. (Harry) Carlisle, she published the first such structure of a steroid, cholesteryl iodide. In 1945, she and her colleagues solved the structure of penicillin, demonstrating that it contains a β-lactam ring. However, the work was not published until 1949. In 1954 she and colleagues began to publish their analysis of vitamin B12.
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