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Career advice from Sir Charles Harrington

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Coping with children and research
Dorothy Hodgkin Scientist
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I have three children. The first was born in December 1938. That was Luke. Then the usual way, we thought we ought to have another one and the war, as you know, at that moment was not doing anything, it was being very quiet, so we sort of quickly put in for another child which was, who was Elizabeth, born in 1941. And then we stopped for the time being until the end of the war when we gave ourselves our third child in 1946, Toby.

[Q] Now during much of your research, Dorothy, you've actually had a family and you had to fit bringing up a family with your research, and the thinking and the experimental demands that it can make. Thinking back, were there particular problems?

 Well, there were, but they were partly by not being at all well after the birth of Luke and ending up with getting rheumatoid arthritis which I have to this day. But the work wasn't so bad. In fact, I was in rather a good state by then because I already had research students so that I could just tell them what to do and know that they were going on nicely in the lab, till I could come in and look at it again.

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: children, research, family, research students, rheumatoid arthritis

Duration: 1 minute, 34 seconds

Date story recorded: 1990

Date story went live: 02 June 2008