On August 14, 1969, Dr. Dorothy Hodgkin used a science she had pioneered — X-ray crystallography — to decipher the three-dimensional structure of insulin, a protein that plays an important role in diabetes. This discovery helped scientists understand how to treat the symptoms of diabetes. What is remarkable is that this momentious discovery was made after Dorothy had been awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1964, only the third woman to ever win this Nobel Prize (the other two were Marie Curie in 1911 and her daughter, Irene Joliet-Curie, in 1935). Dorothy was awarded the Nobel Prize for her work on the structure of a different important molecule, vitamin B-12.
For most people, a Nobel prize would be enough. Not Dorothy! She also was the second woman to receive the Order of Merit (after Florence Nightingale), the first woman to receive the Copley Medal, a Fellow of the Royal Society, a recipient of the Lenin Peace Prize, the Longstaff Medal, the Mikhail Lomonosov Gold Medal, the Dimitrov Prize 1984. Oh, and she’s on a stamp, too. Learn more about Dorothy HERE.
Quotes from Dorothy Hodgkin:
- “I was captured for life by chemistry and by crystals.”
- “I meant to, to study chemistry, and it was really intended by my family that, whatever happened, I should go to Oxford, which was where my father had been before me, because sadly he had no boys, so I had to manage.”
- “There are two moments that are important. There’s the moment when you know you can find out the answer and that’s the period you are sleepless before you know what it is. When you’ve got it and know what it is, then you can rest easy.”
- “One’s tendency when one is young is to do experiments just to see what will happen, without really looking for specific things at all. I first set up a little laboratory in the attic at home just to grow crystals or try experiments described in books, such as adding a lot of concentrated sulfuric acid to the blood from a nosebleed which precipitates hemotin from the hemoglobin in the blood. That was quite a nice experiment. I still remember it.”