a story lives forever
Sign in
Form submission failed!

Stay signed in

Recover your password?
Form submission failed!

Web of Stories Ltd would like to keep you informed about our products and services.

Please tick here if you would like us to keep you informed about our products and services.

I have read and accepted the Terms & Conditions.

Please note: Your email and any private information provided at registration will not be passed on to other individuals or organisations without your specific approval.

Video URL

You must be registered to use this feature. Sign in or register.


Working with JD Bernal in Cambridge


Work on thallium with HM Powell
Dorothy Hodgkin Scientist
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments

I really thought of... what should I do for research? And it was suggested that I should go and work with somebody like the Braggs in London. But Freddie Brewer, who was my tutor, said, you don't need to go to another university, we've just decided to set up a department here. And this decision was with the old professor who had succeeded Miers, would himself make an x-ray tube. And they had appointed a young man, too, who had just taken a good degree and was interested to work with the X-ray tube and begin to do some X-ray crystallography. And this young man was Tiny, Tim Powell. And so I could go and be Tiny's first student. And so I thought, well why not, so I did that.

[Q] That was a thallium compound?

It was thallium dimethyl halides was the subject we worked on, which was really very interesting.

[Q] It's a metal-carbon polymer, wasn't it? Very unexpected.

Yes, yes.

[Q] That was an interesting... it must have given you quite a thrill to get into that work?

Yes. I grew quite beautiful crystals of this thallium compound, and drew them accurately and...

[Q] Took X-ray photographs?

Gave X-ray photographs, which weren't very good X-ray photographs, because we only had a rather horrible cylindrical camera devised by Hilgers.

[Q] Oh, really?

Yes. And Tiny didn't somehow know anything about oscillation photographs, which as I discovered next year when I moved over to Cambridge it was really just absolutely necessary.


British pioneer of X-ray crystallography, Dorothy Hodgkin (1910-1994), is best known for her ground-breaking discovery of the structures of penicillin, insulin and vitamin B12. At age 18, she started studying chemistry at Somerville College, Oxford, then one of the University of Oxford colleges for women only. She also studied at the University of Cambridge under John Desmond Bernal, where she became aware of the potential of X-ray crystallography to determine the structure of proteins. Together with Sydney Brenner, Jack Dunitz, Leslie Orgel, and Beryl Oughton, she was one of the first people in April 1953 to see the model of the structure of DNA, constructed by Francis Crick and James Watson. She was awarded the 1964 Nobel Prize in Chemistry and is also known for her peace work with organisations such as Science for Peace and the Medical Aid Committee for Vietnam. All recorded material copyright of The Biochemical Society.

Listeners: Guy Dodson

Guy Dodson studied chemistry and physical science at the University of New Zealand, followed by a PhD on the crystallographic study of an alkaloid. In 1961, he came to Oxford to work on the crystal structure of insulin. In the mid 1970s Guy and his wife moved to York University to establish a laboratory. In addition to insulin studies the laboratory has investigated many complex molecules of medical significance, including haemoglobin, myoglobin, HIV related proteins, proteases and proteins involved in managing nucleic acids in cells. In 1993, he went to the NIMR in London to establish a crystallographic group in an environment that spanned molecular, physiological and disease-related disciplines. Here his research began on some cell signalling proteins. His interests on medically relevant proteins included prions, malarial and TB proteins, and some clinically relevant thrombin inhibitors. Guy Dodson retired in 2004 but is still finding much to do in York and the NIMR.

Tags: Freddie Brewer, HM Powell

Duration: 2 minutes, 30 seconds

Date story recorded: 1990

Date story went live: 02 June 2008