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Sharing a research student with JD Bernal


The beginning of my rheumatoid arthritis
Dorothy Hodgkin Scientist
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I had been working on some papers to do with my life, and I came upon the papers that... the letter which said what was the matter with me. I had been suffering from rheumatism, sort of rheumaticky pains lately, and my parents, who had just come back from the Sudan, wanted me to see a doctor friend of theirs in London, and they made an appointment for me to do it.

There follows a little letter I wrote to... after I came back, of course, I took the next photographs, after the first one, because I was generally employed taking photographs for Bernal, but there was a little letter which I have got... which Bernal had kept, and which was passed on to me. At his death, one has the right to destroy one's own letters, but I've kept it just saying that Byam thinks I should take a month off work, but, of course, I'm not going to do that. I'll certainly stay with pepsin for the next few weeks, and then we'll have a month off in the summer holidays proper. So I know, so I know what happened to him, and that was the beginning of pepsin.


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: JD Bernal

Duration: 1 minute, 32 seconds

Date story recorded: 1990

Date story went live: 02 October 2009