Dorothy Hodgkin: British chemist's birthday is celebrated with Google Doodle
Jonathan Gibbs reviews books for The Independent and elsewhere. His novel Randall, about the contemporary art world and the fate of the YBAs, is published by Galley Beggar Press. He blogs on this aspect of his writing at tinycamels.wordpress.com
Monday 12 May 2014
Google has celebrated the British chemist Dorothy Hodgkin with a Doodle on its homepage.
Hodgkin, born 12 May 1910, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for discovering the molecular structure of vitamin B12, making her at the time only the third woman to win the prize.
She was best known for advancement of the technique of of X-ray crystallography, in which she used large punch-card operated tabulators, early predecessor to the modern computer, to analyse the patterns cast by reflected X-rays.
She used to technique to work out the structure of the penicillin molecule, in 1946. This is the molecule shown in the Google Doodle - an image based on Hodgkin's model, which is on display in the Science Museum in London.
Born in Egypt Dorothy Mary Crowfoot, Hodgkin spent most of her childhood in England. She was fascinated by crystals from a young age and on her sixteenth birthday received a book about using X-rays to analyse crystals which greatly inspired her.
She worked in the field directly on graduating from Oxford, in 1932, first at the University of Cambridge, and then back at Oxford. The work on vitamin B12 that won her the Nobel Prize took her eight years to complete.
In 1937, she married Thomas Lionel Hodgkin, a lecturer and, like her, a committed socialist. She was a member of the Communist party until the invasion of Hungary in 1956, and in 1953 was banned from entering the US, although later this was reversed. She won the Lenin Peace Prize, and was awarded the Order of Merit, only the second woman to do so, after Florence Nightingale. She died in July 1994, aged 84.
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