Women’s History Month: Dorothy Hodgkin, Insulin

Dorothy Hodgkin (1910-1994) was a British chemist who developed protein crystallography.  She won a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1964 for her work in the field.  She then advanced the technique of x-ray crystallography which opened up the 3-D world of the structures of molecules. Through her work she was able to confirm the structure of penicillin and B12.  These were previously surmised by other scientists but she was able to prove that they were correct through her work.  In 1969, after 35 years of work, she was able to decipher the structure of insulin.

Her research of insulin began in 1934 when Robert Robinson offered her a sample of crystalline insulin.  The molecule was highly complex.  Because the x-ray crystallography was not very advanced, she worked diligently at improving the methods by researching larger molecules and honing the techniques.  After the deciphering of the structure of insulin, she would then cooperate with other scientists within the field of insulin and diabetic studies.  She advised on a number of projects as well as travelled the world speaking at symposium and forums about the importance of insulin in diabetes.

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If you would like to learn more about Dorothy Hodgkin, here are some useful links:

Britannica, Dorothy Hodgkin

Nobel Prize Bio, Dorothy Hodgkin

And a book on her life and work: Dorothy Hodgkin: A Life

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