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Dorothy Hodgkin
Order of Merit Dorothy Hodgkin.jpg
Order of Merit medal of Dorothy Hodgkin,
displayed in the Royal Society, London, 2004.
Born (1910-05-12)12 May 1910
Died 29 July 1994(1994-07-29) (aged 84)
Ilmington, Warwickshire, England, UK
Nationality United Kingdom
Alma mater Somerville College, Oxford
University of Cambridge
Known for Development of Protein crystallography
Determining the structure of Insulin
Awards Nobel Prize in Chemistry (1964)
Copley Medal (1976)
Scientific career
Fields Biochemistry
Institutions University of Oxford
Doctoral advisor John Desmond Bernal

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.

She confirmed the structure of penicillin, which Ernst Chain had proposed, and she worked out the structure of vitamin B12. For her work she was awarded 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 helped to find structures of many biological molecules such as DNA. The structure of molecules helps us understand how they work.


Apart from the Nobel Prize, she was appointed to the Order of Merit, and given the Copley Medal, the top award of the Royal Society.

She was Chancellor of Bristol University from 1970 to 1988, and President of Pugwash from 1976 to 1988. Pugwash is an organisation which holds conferences on Science and World Affairs. Because of her reputation as a 'peacenik', and her relationship with her left-wing mentor J.D. Bernal, Hodgkin was not allowed to enter the US except by CIA waiver. She received the Lenin Peace Prize in 1987.

Her best-known student was Margaret Thatcher, who consulted her when she (Thatcher) was in office.

Order of Merit

The Order of Merit display at the Royal Society (see infobox) mentions two interesting facts:

  1. She was the first woman to join the Order since Florence Nightingale
  2. She filled the vacancy left by Winston Churchill (the Order of Merit is restricted to 24 people at any one time)

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