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Meeting Lester Smith


Visiting America
Dorothy Hodgkin Scientist
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I think I went to... to the States in '47, and in '47 I went to all the labs that mattered and that's when I went first straight to see Patterson.

[Q] Yes, of course.

And I found Patterson, not having a marvellous lab and a large research group, as you might expect, but all on his own... having a tutorial with two girls from Bryn Mawr College in the afternoon. He sent these two girls away while he said that he could talk for the afternoon with me, and I went through the whole analysis with him, and he was extremely pleased. But America was very mixed you see like that, to have their best crystallographer not really funded at all.

And I went on next to Harvard, and I lectured to, in a lecture room at MIT to pretty well everybody, it seemed, and Bob Woodward was there, and I went and had lunch with Bob Woodward afterwards. And Bob quite approved, because of course, beta-lactam was the structure that he had deduced from spectroscopic measurements, which we didn't necessarily believe in, that the spectroscopic measurements meant that, because our spectroscopist, Tommy Thomson, believed just opposite. But you probably might get a different picture of this part of the story from Rex Richards, because Rex was Tommy's research student at the time.



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: Arthur Lindo Patterson, Bob Woodward, Tommy Thomas, Rex Richards

Duration: 2 minutes, 12 seconds

Date story recorded: 1990

Date story went live: 02 June 2008