Dorothy Mary Hodgkin, OM, FRS 12 May 1910 – 29 July 1994
Dorothy Mary Hodgkin, OM, FRS (12 May 1910 – 29 July 1994), née Crowfoot, was a British chemist, credited with the development of protein crystallography.
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 was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. She was the third woman to win the prestigious 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. Hodgkin published as Dorothy Crowfoot until 1949, when she was persuaded by Hans Clarke’s secretary to use her married name on her chapter in The Chemistry of Penicillin. Thereafter she always published as Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin.
Dorothy Mary Crowfoot was born on 12 May 1910 in Cairo, Egypt, to John Winter Crowfoot (1873–1959), archaeologist and classical scholar, and Grace Mary Crowfoot née Hood (1877–1957). For the first four years of her life she lived in the English expatriate community in Egypt, returning to England only a few months each year. She spent the period of World War I in the United Kingdom under the care of relatives and friends, but separated from her parents. After the war, her mother decided to stay home in England for one year 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. Only once, when she was thirteen, did she make an extended visit to her parents, who by then had moved to Khartoum, although both parents continued to visit England each summer.
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