Throughout history, there have been thousands of impactful STEM field innovators, but under representation of women means that educators should take time to highlight key female role models. Dorothy Hodgkin was a British chemist who won the Nobel Prize for the development of protein crystallography in 1964.
“I should not like to leave an impression that all structural problems can be settled by x-ray analysis or that or that all crystal structures are easy to solve. I seem to have spend much more of my life not solving structures than solving them.” – Dorothy Hodgkin
Who Was Dorothy Hodgkin?
Dorothy Hodgkin was born Dorothy Mary Crowfoot in 1910. She and her siblings were raised spending time in both Egypt and England, with her primary education being in England where she developed a passion for chemistry. Her mother, a highly proficient botanist, encouraged her interest in all the sciences.
After graduating from high school, Dorothy began studying chemistry at Somerville College, Oxford. In 1932, she became only the third woman in history to be awarded a first-class honours degree. After receiving her degree, Hodgkins began using x-ray crystallography to research the structure of proteins. It was because of this research that she was awarded her PhD in 1937.
Out of all her research and discoveries, Dorothy Hodgkin is most well-known for the discovery of three-dimensional bio-molecular structures.
5 Facts About Dorothy Hodgkin
Share these 5 fun and interesting facts about Dorothy Hodgkin with your students.
- Dorothy was born in Cairo, Egypt, but spent the majority of her life with her grandparents in England while her parents worked abroad in Egypt.
- Hodgkin was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1964 for Chemistry after having discovered the structure for many molecules including the vitamin B12, penicillin and insulin.
- Dorothy also received the Order of Merit in 1965 – she was only the second woman in history to have received the distinction.
- Hodgkin developed chronic rheumatoid arthritis at the young age of 28, leaving her hands swollen and painful. Despite this she continued to pursue her passion and work.
- From 1975 to 1988 Dorothy was president of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs – an organization that seeks to bring together scientists from around the world.
Quick Group Discussion Questions
After sharing this information about Dorothy Hodgkin and her career and achievements, have students break into groups and answer the following questions before sharing their thoughts with the class.
- Dorothy Hodgkin struggled with painful arthritis throughout her life, but persevered and continued to make important discoveries. How can we be better supports for other people when they are struggling?
- Three-dimensional models of molecules has inspired many creative works of art. Can you think of any other scientific structures or discoveries have inspired artists throughout history?
- Dorothy Hodgkin had to show perseverance despite facing sexist attitudes as one of the first women in history to be awarded a first class honors degree (typically reserved for men). Share a time where you felt you had to persevere to accomplish something you were passionate about.
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