Life Story
Home Letter to parents


Dorothy Crowfoot was born in Cairo on May 12th, 1910 where her father, John Winter Crowfoot, was working in the Egyptian Education Service.

She became interested in chemistry and in crystals at about the age of 10. Most of her childhood she spent with her sisters at Geldeston in Norfolk, from where she went by day to the Sir John Leman School, Beccles, from 1921-28. One other girl, Norah Pusey, and Dorothy Crowfoot were allowed to join the boys doing chemistry at school by the end of her school career, she had decided to study chemistry and possibly biochemistry at university.

She went to Oxford and Somerville College from 1928-32. She attended the special course in crystallography and decided, following strong advice from F.M. Brewer, who was then her tutor, to do research in X-ray crystallography. see letter to parents

She then went to Cambridge for two yers before returning to Oxford in 1934.When she returned to Oxford in 1934, she started to collect money for X-ray apparatus with the help of Sir Robert Robinson.She continued the research that was begun at Cambridge with Bernal on the sterols and on other biologically interesting molecules. Their researches on penicillin began in 1942 during the war, and on vitamin B12 in 1948. Her research group grew slowly and has always been a somewhat casual organisation of students and visitors from various universities, working principally on the X-ray analysis of natural products.

Dorothy Hodgkin took part in the meetings in 1946 which led to the foundation of the International Union of Crystallography and she visited many countries, including China, the USA and the USSR. She was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1947, a foreign member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences in 1956, and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (Boston) in 1958.

In 1937 she married Thomas Hodgkin, son of one historian and grandson of two others, whose main field of interest has been the history and politics of Africa and the Arab world. They have three children and three grandchildren. Their elder son is a mathematician, now teaching for a year at the University of Algiers, before taking up a permanent post at the new University of Warwick. Their daughter is teaching at girls' secondary school in Zambia. Their younger son has spent a pre-University year in India before going to Newcastle to study Botany, and eventually Agriculture. So at the present moment they are a somewhat dispersed family.


Picture taken in 1991

Hodgkin in 1991: Gift of Dorothee Felix.

(taken from

Dorothy Crowfoot died in 1994.

Information From Nobel Lectures , Chemistry 1963-1970.