Obituary: Professor Dorothy Hodgkin

MAX PERUTZ's excellent obituary of Dorothy Hodgkin (1 August) has covered almost all aspects of the life of a remarkable scientist and person, writes Professor Louise N. Johnson. I should like to add a few words on her long association with Somerville College, Oxford, and her influence on the encouragement of women in science.

For the whole of her scientific life from the time she came up to read chemistry in 1928 to her death Dorothy was associated with Somerville College, apart from a two- year spell at Newnham College, Cambridge. For 20 years from 1935 to 1955 she was tutor to science undergraduates. As tutor she taught not only chemistry but also looked after all the science students in the college, a fairly formidable task as it meant knowing about every science subject from zoology to

physics.

Many of her students opted to carry out final-year research projects under her guidance and several more were supervised by her for their DPhil degrees. A noticeable feature of this legacy is the number of women crystallographers in distinguished positions around the world. Dorothy was also noted for her ability to spot talent in those with unorthodox qualifications and there are many whom she nourished that have gone on to make valuable

contributions.

She was the eldest of four sisters and from the age of 18 took responsibility for her siblings when her parents were abroad in what was then Palestine. On one occasion as an undergraduate, she failed to return at the start of term because she was caring for a younger sister through illness. This action illustrates the balance she achieved between personal caring relations and demands of science and education, a characteristic that she was to display throughout her life. Margery Fry, Principal of Somerville from 1926 to 1931, penal reformer and campaigner for the abolition of the death penalty, was a friend and mentor and it was through Fry that Dorothy met her future husband, Thomas Hodgkin, who was a nephew of Fry's.

In the early years Somerville, especially through Helen Darbishire (Principal 1931-45) and Dame Janet Vaughan (Principal 1945-67) supplied support and encouragement for her research and teaching and in later years she was to repay this with extraordinary generosity to the college with endowments from her many awards. On her retirement in 1977, she wrote: 'How valuable a part of my life Somerville has been and how grateful I am for all your/their sweetness, kindness, friendship, affection - as well as constant entertainment - over the last 40 somewhat exhausting but always interesting and (usually) happy years'.

Dorothy Hodgkin had the qualities of simplicity, directness, humility and a great wisdom about human beings and their affairs and abilities. Above all she displayed a great joy in her work and until the end of her life she would recall with great accuracy details of experiments and results that had enthralled her.

It is typical that she ended her James Bryce Memorial Lecture in Somerville in 1979 with a comment on how much science and scientific methods had changed but that 'individuals remain the same, happy in the world they work in and the problems they see before them'. She followed this with a quotation from Henry Miers, an Oxford mineralogist and later Principal of London University, that he had used in 1918 when X-rays were beginning to be used to solve crystal structures:

Nature never did betray

the heart that loved her, 'tis her

privilege

through all the years of this our life

to lead,

from joy to joy.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Advisor - North London / North West London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - North London...

Finance Manager - Recruitment Business (Media & Entertainment)

£28000 - £32000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...

HR Advisor - North London / North West London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - North London...

HR Advisor - North London / North West London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - North London...

Day In a Page

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past