Dorothy Hodgkin was one who always liked doing the impossible and living the edge on science. During her lifetime she made not one, but five discoveries. Each discovery was more complex than the other. Dorothy was born on May 12, 1910 in Cairo, Egypt. She was a scientist that spent her life studying different kinds of crystals. At the age of ten, she became interested in chemistry and crystal. This interest was encouraged by Dr. A. F. Joseph. Dr. A. F. Joseph was a friend of her parents in the Sudan and he gave her chemicals and helped her during her stay there to analyse ilmenite.
She heard about chemistry in a small class in Beccles. Dorothy is the oldest of four sisters, Joan Crowfoot Payne, Diana Crowfoot Rowley, and Elisabeth Crowfoot. She spent most of her childhood with her sisters at Geldeston in Norfolk. During Hodgkin’s childhood, she got separated from her parents because of World War 1. When World War I broke out she was four years old and in England. Hodgkins mother opposed against war. Four of Dorothy Hodgkin’s uncles got killed during World War 1. Since their mother was devastated, Hodgkin and her sisters decided to volunteer for the League of Nations and many other peace campaigns.
Most people would think that Hodgkin would be devastated by the separation, but she believed that this made her independent. The girls spent most of their time away from their parents. Hodgkin and her sister studied pebbles in a nearby stream. That study let her interest in crystal be free and discover new things or revisit old things that previous scientists did. Along with the good things, there came a bad things too. She almost gave up chemistry to study archaeology. Luckily, she was given the book “Concerning the Nature of Things” and that hanged her mind. In elementary school Hodgkin and one other girl were allowed to join the boys in taking a chemistry class. Their teacher was Miss Deeley.
At the age of eleven, she enrolled in a secondary school supported by the government. She decided that she wanted to know more about chemistry and biochemistry at the end of her school days. At the age of thirteen, she and Joan, Hodgkin’s sister, spent six months with their parents in Sudan. Their mom, Grace, took them both to visit family friend, soil chemist A. F. Joseph in the Wellcome Laboratory.
She went to Oxford and Somerville and became devoted to Margery Fry(a British prison reformer). For a brief time during her first year, she combined archaeology and chemistry, analysing glass tesserae from Jerash with E. G. ). Hartley. She attended a course about crystallography and decided to do research in X-ray crystallography. In 1934, she coauthored a paper by the name of “X-Ray Photographs of Crystalline Pepsin” that was published in Nature. Hodgkin kept the way Bernal did his research a secret. She went to Cambridge from Oxford.
Her going to Cambridge from Oxford to work with John Desmond Bernal followed from a chance meeting in a train between Doctor A. F. Joseph and Professor Lowry. Hodgkin scraped together 75 pounds and received a very generous gift from her devoted Aunt of 200 pounds just to work with John Desmond Bernal. Bernal’s laboratory was electric. Even the atmosphere surrounding it was electric. Hodgkin’s hair would stand on end, literally! Electrical wires hung around on the ceiling, just for safety reason. Think about it, thousands of wires on the floor, but you are carrying around a piece of very expensive equipment and a wire trips you.
Back then, that would have been the end to your science career, unless you had enough money to buy more equipment. A lot of people were very poor. For example, when Hodgkin first started to study crystals, she had to climb up old stairs for just enough sunlight to get through. That was one of the main causes for her severe arthritis . After she worked with John Desmond she went back to Oxford. When she returned to Oxford in 1934, she started to collect money for X-ray apparatus. In 1937, she received her PhD from Cambridge the same year she married Thomas L. Hodgkin, who became an authority on African history.
They had three kids together and three grandchildren. The older son is a mathematician. Their younger son spent a pre-University year in India before going to Newcastle. Their daughter is a historianteaching at girls’ secondary school in Zambia. John Desmond Bernal had a huge influence on Hodgkin’s life, not just in the name of science, but also politically. More of her influences were her parents and a book she got when she was younger that taught her how to grow crystals. She went to 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 in 1958. Dorothy Hodgkin went by the name of Dorothy Crowfoot until 1949. She was persuaded to use her married name. Crowfoot was not in the laboratory when the pepsin crystals were first thought of. She was at the doctors with severe pains in her hands. She had early signs of arthritis. When she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, she was Twenty-four years old. It affected both her hands and feet.
She needed the assistance of a wheelchair when she got older. She returned to looking at crystals closely after her arthritis got a little better. She helped with the analysis of the crystals a little later in the research. She was able to work more or less normally during World War II. People were not very familiar with the research that Dorothy was doing and that is why when Dorothy Hodgkin started her research it was still considered brand new. It was a combination of mathematics, physics, and chemistry. In her studies of crystals, she learned crystals could be made naturally or artificially.
At first there were thousands of equations involved with the simplest crystals. The equations were used to build what’s called an electron density map. It shows where the crystals electrons are most concentrated. The process of analysing crystals with x-rays could take months. Sometimes, even longer. Dorothy Hodgkin had a system she had to do to study crystals. She first had to crystalize the substance. After she crystalized the substance, she took X-Rays of the substance. Then, she had to study the way the light bounced off the corners of the crystals.
This is the system that used many equations, since they didn’t have the correct technology to complete this tedious and annoying way. Hodgkin is remembered by her research students. Most of her research students were women. She was chair of the Pugwash movement from 1976 to 1988. She was awarded a stamp that was issued in the United Kingdom for her fine work of her studies of crystals. Dorothy Hodgkin is known for her working in the development of the protein crystallography. She obviously has a great passion for science. She was also the key to understanding the three dimensional structures of biomolecules.
Three dimensional biomolecular structures were discovered by the one and only Dorothy (Crowfoot) Hodgkin in 1945. Work from her study on vitamin B12 was published 1954, which led her to the award of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1964. Even when she was little, Hodgkin loved to promote peace. She worked on the structure of insulin along with many more scientists, the work was published in 1969. The work for this project took a whooping thirty-five years to complete. Dorothy Hodgkin won many prizes such as the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Copley Medal, Royal Medal, Lomonosov Gold Medal.
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to Hodgkin in 1964 for X-ray techniques of the structures of biochemical substances. The Copley Medal was awarded to Hodgkin. She was the first woman to win a Copley Medal. She was also awarded a honorary degree from the University of Bath. Dorothy Hodgkin once said “I used to say the evening that I developed the first xray photograph I took of insulin in 1935 was the most exciting moment of my life. But the Saturday afternoon in late July 1969, when we realized that the insulin electron density map was interpretable, runs that moment very close. What she means by the quote above is that the evening she found the first x-ray was the most exciting moment in her entire life, but the afternoon when she found the electron density map was very much explainable was a very close second to the night when she found the first x-ray. They were both very exciting but, the x-ray was still the first. I mean she did discover it on her own, right? In 1953, Dorothy Hodgkin and her husband were banned from entering the United States of America.
They were both banned from entering the United States of America because her husband was a one time member of the communist party during the “red scare. She tried entering the United States of America and their entry got denied due to the unfortunate incident. Dorothy Hodgkin also once said “From the intensity of the spots near the centre, we can infer that the protein molecules are relatively dense globular bodies, perhaps joined together by valency bridges, but in any event separated by relatively large spaces which contain water. From the intensity of the more distant spots, it can be inferred that the arrangement of atoms inside the protein molecule is also of a perfectly definite kind, although without the periodicities characterising the fibrous proteins.
The observations are compatible with oblate spheroidal molecules of diameters about Twenty-five A. and Thirty-five A. , arranged in hexagonal screw-axis. At this stage, such ideas are merely speculative, but now that a crystalline protein has been made to give X-ray photographs, it is clear that we have the means of checking them and, by examining the structure of all crystalline proteins, arriving at a far more detailed conclusion about protein structure than previous physical or chemical methods have been able to give. This quote is just explaining the way the crystals look from the perspective of Dorothy Hodgkin.
The patterns formed when x-rays pass through a crystal structure can be captured as photos which then are used to find a crystals structure. In the 1930s, the method of crystallography x-rays were used to map very large and complicated molecules. Extensive calculations helped Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin to determine a structure of penicillin in 1946. During 1956, a structure of vitamin B12, which was the most complicated structure that Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin ever studied herself. She retired in 1977. When Hodgkin retired, she had a golden stone house waiting for her.
Even after she retired she continued to follow her dreams of working in the field of science. She was wheelchair-bound due to her arthritis and a broken pelvis. She still attended most scientific and peace conferences. Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin’s husband, Thomas Lionel Hodgkin, passed away on June 29, 1984. A few long dreadful years later, Hodgkin passed away on August 1, 1988. Unfortunately, Dorothy Hodgkin passed away from a stroke. She was in her home in Shipston-on-Stour, England. She lived to be 84 years old. In 2014 Google created a doodle in honor of her, on her birthday when she would have been turning one hundred and four years old.