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Hodgkin, Dorothy,

ray structure complex oxford

née Crowfoot (1910–94) British X-ray crystallographer: applied X-ray crystal analysis to complex biochemical molecules.

Dorothy Crowfoot was born in Cairo, where her father worked in the Education Service. Soon he moved to the Sudan, to become director of both Education and Antiquities; she visited her parents in Khartoum and always retained an interest in the region and in archaeology. From an early age her interest in chemistry (especially in crystals and identifying minerals) competed with archaeology and after school in England she went to Oxford and studied both subjects. She was advised to specialize in X-ray crystallography, did so and then went to Cambridge to work with J D Bernal (1901–71): after 2 years there she returned to an Oxford post in 1934 and remained there. She married the historian Thomas Hodgkin in 1937.

Dorothy Hodgkin developed the X-ray diffraction method of finding the exact structure of a molecule (originally devised by the ) and applied it to complex organic molecules. Among her most striking successes were the antibiotic penicillin, whose structure she deduced in 1956 (before it had been deduced by purely chemical methods), and vitamin B12 , lack of which leads to pernicious anaemia. This vitamin has over 90 atoms in a complex structure, and her analysis in 1956 (after 8 years work) was a high point for X-ray methods. Until then, computing aid for X-ray crystallographers was primitive and Hodgkin used remarkable chemical intuition combined with massive computation. When modern computers became available, she was able to complete a study of insulin (with over 800 atoms) that she had begun in the 1930s, and in 1972 described its detailed structure. She won the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1964.

Hodgkin, Sir Alan Lloyd [next] [back] Hoby, Thomas (1530–1566) - BIOGRAPHY, CRITICAL RECEPTION

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