Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowship

In 2014 we commemorated the remarkable life and work of Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin, who won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry 50 years ago, in 1964.

A lifelong Somervillian, Professor Hodgkin’s groundbreaking work in crystallography continues to be built on today, delivering progress in a great variety of fields, such as medicine, agriculture, water and energy conservation – even the study of soil on the planet Mars.

2014 was also the UNESCO International Year of Crystallography, marking both the 100th anniversary of X-ray diffraction and the (belated) 400th anniversary of Johanner Kepler’s 1611 observation of the symmetrical form of ice crystals, which began the wider study of the role of symmetry in matter. Some 45 Nobel Prize winners have received their awards for studies in, or relating to, crystallography, an area that continues to provide breakthroughs to this day.

Dorothy Hodgkin remains one of the leading figures in the history of crystallography, making notable contributions in the field of protein crystallography. She ascertained the structures of both penicillin and vitamin B12, and it was her work on the latter of these for which she was awarded the Nobel Prize.

Somerville has already marked this anniversary in the 2014 College Magazine as well as in a commemorative booklet. Plans are now under way for a more formal commemoration of Dorothy Hodgkin’s remarkable achievements as a scientist, teacher and mentor, as well as a trailblazer in the field of crystallography who remains the only British woman to have received a Nobel Prize for science. On 29 October 2014, the College hosted an event featuring a talk by Nobel Prize winner Sir Venki Ramakrishnan.

Crystallography research continues to play a significant role at Somerville, as do several of the disciplines and fields of endeavour to which it contributes. For example, the College has a strong profile in the area of sustainability, hosting both the Global Ocean Commission, which will deliver its recommendations on ocean sustainability policy to the United Nations later this year, and the Oxford India Centre for Sustainable Development, which provides scholarships (part-funded by the government of India) for students from India to study sustainability-related courses at the University of Oxford before returning to India to work in sustainability themselves.

The College plans to help keep Dorothy Hodgkin’s legacy alive by embarking on a fundraising project in her name. Further information will be made available in due course.