Academic Career

As a scientist and academic conducting original work, Dorothy returned to Oxford and Somerville College in 1934, having been awarded a research fellowship the previous year. When Somerville created its first chemistry fellowship just two years later, Dorothy was appointed to the post (and retained it for more than four decades until 1977). However, the position that really supported her researches was her appointment in 1960 as the Royal Society’s Wolfson Research Professor. Dorothy (now married and going by her husband’s name of Hodgkin) held this post for ten years and it provided a salary and research expenses, being fundamental in supporting her work on determining the structure of insulin.

In addition to the insulin molecule, during her lengthy and distinguished academic career, Dorothy Hodgkin made important discoveries and conducted valuable research into the crystalline structures of penicillin, vitamin B12, the steroid cholesteryl iodide. As an indicator of her passion and dedication to exploring the inner structure of crucial organic molecules, Dorothy was one of the first to see the famous DNA double helix structure discovered by Watson and Crick, organising a spontaneous trip to Cambridge with her colleagues as soon as the discovery was published in April 1953.

As an interesting footnote, during her time as a tutor at Somerville College, one of Dorothy’s students was the then Margaret Roberts, later to become Prime Minister under her married name of Thatcher. Clearly Dorothy was some kind of inspiration to the Iron Lady as her portrait was hung in 10 Downing Street during Thatcher’s tenure.

Next: Dorothy's Major Discoveries »