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Picture of Dorothy Hodgkin

Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin


Additional Information

Some Important Contributions

In 1934, with J. D. Bernal in Cambridge, photographed for the first time single crystals of a protein - pepsin.

First to determine the three-dimensional structure of a complex bio-organic molecule. She determined the structure of cholesteryl iodide by x-ray diffraction in 1941-42 (published in 1945) in complete three-dimensional detail, at a time when no one else was determining complex structures in three dimensions because of the formidable calculations involved.

Determined the structure of penicillin in 1944 (published in 1949), again in three-dimensional detail; there was only fragmentary and conflicting evidence on the structure from chemical work of this rather unstable molecule, which was of immense importance as an antibiotic during and immediately after World War II.

Determined the structure of vitamin B-12 in 1956, using one of the first high-speed digital computers. This was by far the most complex molecule whose three-dimensional architecture had been established, and some of its unusual structural features were quite unanticipated.

Determined the structure of insulin in 1969. This culminated a study pursued over three decades. The details of the structure provided insight into the function of this vital hormone.

Some Important Publications

Speech on receiving the Nobel Prize in Chemistry:
"The X-ray Analysis of Complicated Molecules," Science 150: 979 (1965).

"The Crystal Structure of Cholesteryl Iodide," Proceedings of the Royal Society A184: 64 (1945), with C.H. Carlisle.

"X-ray Crystallographic Investigation of the Structure of Penicillin," in Chemistry of Penicillin, Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ 1949, with C. Bunn, B. Rogers-Low, and A. Turner-Jones.

"The Crystal Structure of the Hexacarboxylic Acid Derived from B-12 and the Molecular Structure of the Vitamin," Nature 176: 325 (1955), with J. Pickworth, J. Robertson, K. Trueblood, R. Prosen, and J. White.

"Structure of Vitamin B-12," Nature 173: 64 (1956), with J. Kamper, M. Mackay, J. Pickworth, K. Trueblood, and J. White.

"Structure of Rhombohedral 2-zinc Insulin Crystals," Nature 224: 491 (1969), with M. Adams, T. Blundell, E. Dodson, G. Dodson, M. Vijayan, E. Baker, M. Harding, B. Rimmer, and S. Sheat.

"Atomic Positions in Rhombohedral 2-zinc Insulin Crystals," Nature 231: 506 (1971), with T. Blundell, J. Cutfield, S. Cutfield, E. Dodson, G. Dodson, D. Mercola, and M. Vijayan.


The Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1964 - "For her determinations by X-ray techniques of the structures of important biological substances."

Chancellor, Bristol University 1970 - 1988

Fellow of The Royal Society (London)

Order of Merit (U.K.) 1965

Fellow, Indian Academy of Sciences

Bakerian Lecturer, National Academy of Sciences (U.S.) 1972

Some other prizes and medals:

Royal Medal, The Royal Society of London 1956
Copley Medal, The Royal Society of London 1976
Longstaff Medal, British Association for the Advancement of Science 1978
Mikhail Lomonosov Gold Medal, Soviet Academy of Sciences 1982
Dimitrov Prize 1984
Lenin Peace Prize 1987

Honorary D.Sc.: Universities of Bath, Brown, Cambridge, Chicago, Delhi, East Anglia, Exeter, Ghana, Harvard, Hull, Kent, Leeds, London, Manchester, Mount Sinai, Oxford, St. Andrews, Sussex, Warwick.

Other honorary degrees:

Dr. Medicine and Surgery (Modena); D.Univ. (Open, York, Zagreb); LL.D. (Bristol); D.L. (Dalhousie).

Foreign Member: Royal Netherlands Acad. of Science and Letters, American Acad. of Arts and Sciences, Bavarian Acad., Austrian Acad., Ghana Acad. of Sciences, Puerto Rico Acad. of Sciences, Australian Acad. of Sciences, Leopoldina Acad. of Sciences, Norwegian Acad. of Sciences, Indian Acad. of Sciences, Royal Irish Acad. of Sciences, National Acad. of Sciences (U.S.A.) .

Honorary Member: USSR Academy of Sciences, Royal Institution of Great Britain.

Honorary Fellow: Somerville College, Oxford; Linacre College, Oxford; Girton College, Cambridge; Newnham College, Cambridge. ; Bristol University (1988-1994).


1934-35 Research Fellow, Somerville College, Oxford
1935-55 Official Fellow and Tutor, Somerville College, Oxford
1946-56 Demonstrator and Lecturer, Oxford University
1947-48 Rockefeller Fellowship
1956-60 University Reader, Oxford University
1960-77 Wolfson Research Professor, Oxford University
1956-77 Professorial Fellow, Somerville College, Oxford
1977-83 Fellow, Wolfson College, Oxford
1977-94 Professor Emeritus, Oxford University

President, International Union of Crystallography 1972-75.
President, British Association for the Advancement of Science 1977-78.
President, Pugwash Conference on Science and World Affairs 1975-88.


B.A. Somerville College, Oxford University 1931
D.Phil. Cambridge University 1937

References consulted

[iss1970kl], [ssmbi1981mp], [qrb1994mp], [iww1994], [nsb1994lj], [cww1994mv], [1F N20], [1982 JCE], [N 1994mp]

Additional Information/Comments

"I felt embarrassed when I was awarded the Nobel Prize before Dorothy, whose great discoveries had been made with such fantastic skill and chemical insight, and had preceded my own." ---- Max Perutz in Structural Studies of Molecules of Biological Interest, G. Dodson, J.P.Glusker, D. Sayre, eds.

In 1934, just the first single crystals of a protein - pepsin - were found and photographed, she suffered onset of a severe case of rheumatoid arthritis that progressively crippled her throughout the rest of her life.

During WWII, she was primarily occupied with the structure analysi of penicillin, the first of the antibiotics, which played an important role in the treatment of war wounded.

    "She pursued her crystallographic studies, not for the sake of honors, but because that was what she liked to do. There was a magic about her person. She had no enemies, not even among those whose scientific theories she demolished or whose political view she opposed. Just as her X-ray cameras bared the intrinsic beauty beneath the rough surface of things, so the warmth and gentlenes of her approach to people uncovered in everyone, even the most hardened scientific crook, some hidden kernel of goodness." ----Max Perutz, obituary in The Independent.

A remembrance of Max Perutz - "There are certain letters which I dread to open," she once told me, " and when I saw one from Buckingham Palace I left it sealed, fearing that they wanted to make me Dame Dorothy." It would have made her feel like a femme formidable, which she happily was not. She was relieved to find that the Queen offered her the Order of Merit, a much greater honor. ----ibid.

She was only the second woman to receive the Order of Merit; the first was Florence Nightingale. There are just 25 living persons in the Order of Merit at any given time. In 1992, Dorothy Hodgkin was the senior member and Margaret Thatcher, the former Prime Minister (who had been a student of Dorothy's in Somerville College, Oxford), was the most junior, i.e. most recent, member.

"In her life she was a constant source of inspiration and help to those around her. In particular, through her work at Somerville she has left a legacy of distinguished women scientists around the world, that includes Pauline Harrison, Jenny Glusker, Marjorie Harding, Margaret Adams, Eleanor Dodson, Judith Howard and Carol Huber, among others." ----Professor Louise Johnson, University of Oxford.

She was an active participant in the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs founded in response to the Russell-Einstein Manifesto issued by Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein, which called upon scientists of all political persuasions to assemble to discuss the threat posed to civilization by the advent of thermonuclear weapons.

She was President of Pugwash from 1975 - 1988.

She was married to Thomas Hodgkin, and had three children Luke, Elizabeth, and Toby.

Submitted by:

Original citer's name:

Nina Byers

Field Editor: Professor Kenneth Trueblood


Further Reading

The biography by Georgina Ferry, Dorothy Hodgkin: A Life, Granta 1998.

Some links to other internet sites

Memorial Address by M. F. Perutz

Dr. Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin: Chemist, Crystallographer, Humanitarian - a biography by Linda Cohen from The Nobel Prize Internet Archive.

The Papers of Dorothy Mary Crowfoot Hodgkin

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latest revision {4/30/97 mjw} 3/16/01 nb