Nobel Women

Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin, Dorothy Hodgkin
Associated Press

Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin, 1964 Winner of Nobel Prize in Chemistry

October 14, 2009
by findingDulcinea Staff
Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1964 for determining the structures of substances such as cholesterol, penicillin and vitamin B12 using X-ray crystallography.

Dorothy Crowfoot was born in Cairo on May 12, 1910, the daughter of English parents who studied Egyptian culture. When she was 15, her mother gave her a book by Nobel laureate William Henry Bragg, who wrote about the use of X-ray crystallography to “see” atoms. Biographer Georgina Ferry says it “excited the impressionable Dorothy beyond measure,” and she went on to study crystallography at Somerville College, part of Oxford University.

After graduating in 1932, she began working as a crystallographer under J.D. Bernal at Cambridge, where the two pioneered the use of X-ray crystallography to uncover the structure of proteins. Hodgkin “always chose projects that no one else thought quite possible,” PBS says, studying complex biological substances.

Hodgkin helped Bernal determine the structures of pepsin and tobacco mosaic virus before opening her own laboratory at Oxford in 1935. Over the next 20 years, she discovered the structures of cholesterol, penicillin and vitamin B12.

She was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1964, but her greatest achievement did not come until five years later when, after 34 years of studying insulin, she was finally able to determine its structure. Her breakthrough made it possible for doctors to develop treatments for controlling diabetes.

For a complete biography, visit Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin’s page on the Nobel Foundation Web site.

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