In October 1964 newspapers announced that Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin, Professor of Chemistry and a Fellow of Somerville College, had won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry.

Her achievement was enjoyed by colleagues and crystallographers alike, among them Professor Siv Ramaseshan, who worked for a year in the same Oxford lab as Hodgkin, and who would later recal his children exclaiming ‘Our Dorothy has won the Nobel Prize!’*

Today the strength of her achievement continues to be recognised around the world, not least because the International Union of Crystallography (IUCr) nominated 2014 as the International Year of Crystallography (IYCr). Professor Hodgkin remains the only British woman to receive a Nobel Prize for science.

Dorothy Hodgkin Symposium

The IUCr and UNESCO have therefore joined with Somerville College to co-host the Dorothy Hodgkin Symposium on October 29, 2014. The Symposium has been advertised on the websites of the IUCr and Somerville College and the College has issued a press release ahead of the event.

The Symposium commemorates Professor Hodgkin’s remarkable life and work, during which she used x-ray crystallography to determine the structures of Vitamin B12, penicillin and insulin, work that continues to be built on to this day.

The keynote speaker at the Symposium will be Professor (Sir) Venki Ramakrishnan, himself a Nobel laureate. The Symposium will welcome leading scientists from her field, as well as members of her family, descendants of Sir Lawrence Bragg, students and alumni of Somerville College, and members of the public. It is hoped that the event will help to raise awareness of both Dorothy Hodgkin and her field of crystallography, which continues to enable progress in a number of fields, from medicine to mining to IT.

The 2014 edition of the Somerville Magazine also celebrated this important anniversary, and a booklet about Dorothy Hodgkin will be available for anyone who attends, with contributions from the Principal, Dr Margaret Adams, Dame Kay Davies and Kate Hodgkin, Dorothy’s granddaughter.

In December 2014, two months after the award was announced, Hodgkin travelled to Stockholm to receive her prize and deliver her address. The text of that address can be accessed on the Nobel Prize website.

A recent five-programme series on BBC Radio 4 looked at Dorothy Hodgkin’s correspondence while a play first performed this year considered her relationship with tutee Margaret Thatcher. Georgina Ferry’s Dorothy Hodgkin: A Life was published in 1999 and received favourable reviews. (LRB review here.)

The College remains deeply proud that the 1964 Nobel Prize was awarded to ‘our Dorothy’ and is looking forward to marking her achievement in the hope it will further public understanding of her field.

*source: Georgina Ferry, Dorothy Hodgkin: A Life

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