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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.
Dorothy Mary Crowfoot

(1910-05-12)12 May 1910
Cairo, Egypt
Died 29 July 1994(1994-07-29) (aged 84)
Ilmington, Warwickshire, England
Nationality British
Education Sir John Leman Grammar School
Alma mater
Known for
Thomas Lionel Hodgkin (m. 1937)
Children Luke, Elizabeth, and Toby
Scientific career
Fields Biochemistry
X-ray crystallography
Thesis X-ray crystallography and the chemistry of the sterols (1937)
Doctoral advisor John Desmond Bernal
Doctoral students
  • Judith Howard
  • Michael N. G. James
Other notable students
  • Jack D. Dunitz (postdoc)
  • Margaret Thatcher (undergraduate)
  • Tom Blundell (postdoc)
  • Guy Dodson (postdoc)

Dorothy Mary Crowfoot Hodgkin OM FRS (12 May 1910 – 29 July 1994), was a British chemist, credited with the development of protein crystallography. Hodgkin received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1964.

Early Life

Hodgkin was born in Cairo, Egypt. She and her sisters were sent to live in England when World War l started. She spent the rest of her life there. Her mother was an expert on nature and Ancient Egyptian Textiles. Hodgkin’s father was a British archeologist and scholar.


She studied crystals and became a teacher Somerville College at University of Oxford. In 1969, Hodgkin was able to use computer technology discover the structure of Insulin. Insulin is a protein in the body that is used to treat diabetes.

She advanced the technique of X-ray crystallography, a method used to determine the three dimensional structures of biomolecules.

Ernst Chain thought he found the structure of penicillin. Hodgkin proved he was right. She also found 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 find 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 organization which holds conferences on Science and World Affairs.

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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