Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin

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Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin OM, FRS (12 May 1910 – 29 July 1994) was a British chemist, credited with the discovery of protein crystallography. She was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for her development of X-ray crystallography, the discovery of the structure of penicillin and vitamin B12.

Early Life and Education

Dorothy Crowfoot was born in Cairo, where her father John Crowfoot was working in the Egyptian Education Service. He would later be transferred to Sudan, where she also spent much of her childhood, helping her parents on excavations. She spent most of her childhood in Norfolk, where she was allowed to join the boys' chemistry class. She decided to study chemisty at university. She attended Oxford University (Somerville College) between 1928-32, studying chemistry. Her teacher, F.M. Brewer encouraged her to pursue research in X-ray crystallography.

In 1937, she married Thomas Hodgkin, who was Director of the Institute of African Studies at the University of Ghana, where she spent some of her own working life.

Academic Career

After completing Part II Chemistry, she decided to pursue her research for 2 years at the University of Cambridge, working with J.D. Bernal. In 1933, Somerville College, gave her a research fellowship, to be held for one year at Cambridge and the second at Oxford. She returned to Somerville and Oxford in 1934 and she has remained there, except for brief intervals, for the rest of her life. Most of her working life, she spent as Official Fellow and Tutor in Natural Science at Somerville, responsible mainly for teaching chemistry for the women's colleges. She became a University lecturer and demonstrator in 1946, University Reader in X-ray Crystallography in 1956 and Wolfson Research Professor of the Royal Society in 1960. She worked at first in the Department of Mineralogy and Crystallography where H.L. Bowman was professor. In 1944 the department was divided and Dr. Crowfoot continued in the subdepartment of Chemical Crystallography, with H.M. Powell as Reader under Professor C.N. Hinshelwood.


When she returned to Oxford in 1934, she continued the research that she had begun at Cambridge with Bernal on sterols and on other biologically interesting molecules, including insulin. In 1937, she developed the technique to determine the structure of cholesterol. In 1942, she began research on penicillin and on vitamin B12 in 1948. In 1969, she determined the structure of insulin.


Dorothy Hodgkin took part in the meetings in 1946 which led to the foundation of the International Union of Crystallography. She was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1947, a foreign member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences in 1956, and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (Boston) in 1958.


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