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Preparing to get into Oxford


A rather rackety childhood
Dorothy Hodgkin Scientist
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My father and mother came back after the end of the war and looked for a house that we could call our own. And we found...

[Q] This was 1918 / 1919?

It was 1918.

[Q] 1918.

And they found a very nice house called the Old House Geldeston in a village three miles across Waveney from Beccles and they also found a good local secondary school there, the Sir John Leman school. It was founded partly taking over an old foundation which it used to give itself a name. And you could bicycle to school quite easily from our home to Beccles. Now they were still a bit torn because my mother liked very much living with my father in Sudan and was very much interested in various Sudanese customs and textiles that they made and so she didn’t want to be looking after four children in Beccles the whole time. So... but still, we managed. Usually she would come for most of the year to live with us in Geldeston and then perhaps one term she would let us lodge with friends in Beccles, we had some family of cousins there, and come back the rest of the year. So we had a rather rackety childhood in a way.


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: Sudan

Duration: 2 minutes, 10 seconds

Date story recorded: 1990

Date story went live: 02 June 2008