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A rather rackety childhood


Family history and school
Dorothy Hodgkin Scientist
Comments (1) Please sign in or register to add comments
Raquel Gonçalves Maia
Tuesday, 04 January 2011 10:10 PM
Thanks Guy Dodson for keeping her memory alive.

My family had been distributed over a part of north of East Anglia from the early times mainly farming. And my father-in-law, who was an historian, who said he had come across a Danish Viking called Crowfoot, or nicknamed Crowfoot, whom he thought must have been the origin of our distribution.

[Q] Right.

But when my father and mother had three children, they thought it, they wouldn't want all the time to bring them up in Sudan; they would bring them up in their own homeland, and my father said, as he was in the education business and had to devise courses for children, he thought they should go to the schools at Beccles countryside, which was then Sir John Leman School, a small country... I don't think it was classified as a grammar school, because it didn't in fact do Latin and Greek or anything like that, but it did introduce chemistry. It should have taught two science subjects, but a cut occurred just as I went there. We only had one term of physics before we lost physics for our whole, our whole world... but we had very good chemistry from our one science teacher, Christine Deeley.

[Q] Did that science teacher have an influence, presumably?

She had a great influence, especially on, on girls, because, in school, the general plan was that, was that the girls would all study domestic science and physiology, while the boys were studying pure science and chemistry. But if a girl was going to a university, or hoped to go to a university, she could do chemistry, and I think that I know several girls who were persuaded by Christine Deeley to do chemistry.

[Q] Take that course?

Yes. My year, there were two of us who did chemistry with the boys, and one other girl who was very good, Norah Putey, and myself, and we, we enjoyed ourselves well enough.


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: childre, education, school, science

Duration: 3 minutes, 17 seconds

Date story recorded: 1990

Date story went live: 02 June 2008