Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin

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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. Among her most influential discoveries are the confirmation of the structure of penicillin that Ernst Boris Chain had previously surmised, and then the structure of vitamin B12, for which 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 was critical in later determining the structures of many biological molecules such as DNA where knowledge of structure is critical to an understanding of function. She is regarded as one of the pioneer scientists in the field of X-ray crystallography studies of biomolecules.


Early years

Dorothy Mary Crowfoot was born on 12 May 1910 in Cairo, Egypt, to John Winter Crowfoot (1873 – 1959), excavator and scholar of classics, and Grace Mary Hood (1877 – 1957). For the first four years of her life she lived as an English expatriate in Asia Minor, returning to England only a few months each year. She spent the period of World War I in the UK under the care of relatives and friends, but separated from her parents. After the war, her mother decided to stay home in England and educate her children, a period that Hodgkin later described as the happiest in her life.

In 1921, she entered the Sir John Leman Grammar School in Beccles, England. She travelled abroad frequently to visit her parents in Cairo and Khartoum. Both her father and her mother had a strong influence with their Puritan ethic of selflessness and service to humanity which reverberated in her later achievements. She also helped scientists all over the world fight diabetes, a common disease that effects over 15 million Americans. Diabetics bodies' are unable to process sugar, also known as blood glucose, efficiently. Diabetes can be fatal. Due to Dr. Hodgkin's discovery, she has saved thousands of lives.

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