12 May 2014 :: Google is celebrating the 104th birthday of Dorothy Hodgkin, renowned British biochemist, who is credited with the development of protein crystallography.
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), archaeologist and expert on Ancient Egyptian textiles.
She developed a passion for chemistry from a young age, and her mother fostered her interest in science in general. Her state school education left her without Latin or a further science subject, but she took private tuition in order to enter the University of Oxford entrance examination. At age 18 she started studying chemistry at Somerville College, Oxford, then one of the University of Oxford colleges for women only.
She studied for a PhD at the University of Cambridge under the supervision of John Desmond Bernal,where she became aware of the potential of X-ray crystallography to determine the structure of proteins, working with him on the technique’s first application to analysis of a biological substance, pepsin.
In 1933 she was awarded a research fellowship by Somerville College, and in 1934, she moved back to Oxford. The college appointed her its first fellow and tutor in chemistry in 1936, a post which she held until 1977. In the 1940s, one of her students was Margaret Roberts, the future Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who installed a portrait of Hodgkin in Downing Street in the 1980s.
Together with Sydney Brenner, Jack Dunitz, Leslie Orgel, and Beryl M. Oughton, she was one of the first people in April 1953 to travel from Oxford to Cambridge to see the model of the structure of DNA, constructed by Francis Crick and James Watson, based on data acquired by Rosalind Franklin. According to the late Dr. Beryl Oughton, later Rimmer, they all travelled together in two cars once Dorothy Hodgkin announced to them that they were off to Cambridge to see the model of the structure of DNA.
In 1960, she was appointed the Royal Society’s Wolfson Research Professor, a position she held until 1970. This provided her salary, research expenses and research assistance to continue her work at Oxford.
Hodgkin is particularly noted for discovering three-dimensional biomolecular structures. In 1945, working with C. H. (Harry) Carlisle, she published the first such structure of a steroid, cholesteryl iodide (having worked with cholesteryls since the days of her doctoral studies). In 1945, she and her colleagues solved the structure of penicillin, demonstrating (contrary to scientific opinion at the time) that it contains a β-lactam ring. However, the work was not published until 1949. In 1954 she and colleagues began to publish their analysis of vitamin B12.
On July 29, 1994, Hodgkin died due to cardiac stroke at her home in Warwickshire