May 12th’s Google doodle honored the birthday of biochemist Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin. Hodgkin is famous for her important achievements in protein crystallography, for which she won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1964. But before her remarkable accomplishments as an adult, Hodgkin had remarkable experiences as an inquisitive girl in the Middle East and Northern Africa.
Dorothy Mary Crowfoot was born May 12, 1910 in Cairo, Egypt, to English parents. Her mother Grace Mary Crowfoot (Hood) was an archaeologist and scholar of ancient textiles, and her father John Winter Crowfoot was an archaeologist and classical scholar. Dorothy was the oldest of her parents four daughters. Her mother encouraged Dorothy‚Äôs curiosity and interest in science as a girl. According to the Chemical Heritage Foundation, as a child, ‚Äúshe enjoyed using a portable mineral analysis kit to analyze pebbles that she and her sister found in the stream running through the family garden in Khartoum, Sudan.‚Äù
Hodgkin received a book by physicist William Henry Bragg about using x-rays to analyze molecules for her 16th birthday, which would inspire her later research. When Hodgkin was 18, she began to study physics and chemistry at Somerville College, Oxford. When she was only 24, Hodgkin was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. This disease would eventually lead to crippling deformities in her hands and feet but she continued to remain active as a scientist and peace activist. She improved the techniques of X-Ray crystallography, and used X-rays to determine the structures of important biomolecules, including penicillin, vitamin B12, and insulin. Hodgkin is one of only four women to have been awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, and the only British woman to win a Nobel Prize in Science.
Hodgkin is featured in our 2014 Heroines Quilt exhibition.
Girl Museum Inc.