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Additional papers of Dorothy Mary Crowfoot Hodgkin


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The collections is comprised of the following series:

Biographical and personal, is by far the most substantial, containing much new material relating to Hodgkin, her family and friends. Among the 'Juvenilia' at MS. Eng. c. 7923/1-8 are notebooks and diaries, some home-made, recording her earliest work at home 1919-1924, including history, poems, nature study with her own illustrations, and chemistry. Her intellectual brilliance was acknowledged by her election as Fellow of the Chemical Society in 1922 at the age of twenty-one (MS. Eng. c. 7924/11), and continued steadily with world-wide honours and awards; a celebratory volume for her 80th birthday in 1990 (MS. Eng. c. 7926/1) testifies to the esteem and affection she inspired. The draft biography by F. Pagan, which takes the story to 1939, is also of interest (MS. Eng. c. 7922/5). The family correspondence at MSS. Eng. c. 7929/4-5, 7930-7937 documents the attainments and activities of three generations: Hodgkin's parents John and Molly Crowfoot; herself, her sisters and her husband; and her children. Hodgkin's mother was a gifted and energetic woman (MS. Eng. c. 7930 and introductory note). Her daughter Prudence Elisabeth ('Liz') followed family tradition in making a career in Africa from which she wrote regularly (MS. Eng. c. 7932/1-15 and note). By far the largest component, however, is Hodgkin's almost daily correspondence with her beloved husband Thomas, whom she met and married in 1937. This famous record of a great love as well as a personal and family account is presented with a fuller introduction at MSS. Eng. c. 7933-7936/13. Interestingly, here as in her correspondence with her previous mentor J.D. Bernal (see the Research series), part of Hodgkin's mind remained in thrall to her research and she could move disconcertingly from an emotional level to practical laboratory affairs. The tradition of regular letter-writing, in a pre-electronic age, combined with open-heartedness and shared humanitarian and political concerns, links family members and also some of Hodgkin's closest friends such as Margery Fry, Betty Murray and - in a somewhat different key - the flamboyant Somerville Fellow, Enid Starkie.

Research, while considerably less exhaustive than that previously catalogued, provides some useful complementary material, such as Hodgkin's undergraduate notebooks, the work for her Oxford Part II thesis later published (MS. Eng. c. 7941/4), her Cambridge doctoral thesis (MS. Eng. c. 7942/4) and her earliest work on insulin (MS. Eng. c. 7942/5-6).

Correspondence and papers relating to J.D.Bernal (MS. Eng. c. 7943/7-17) are of scientific and personal interest, and this continues in the Publications and lectures series. In addition to Hodgkin's drafts for her writings on Bernal, there is a copy (MS. Eng. c. 7945/5) of his dissertation 'The analytic theory of point systems', written as an undergraduate at Cambridge 1922-1923 entirely in his own time and for his own interest. It was never published but struck W.H. Bragg as so remarkable that he offered Bernal a post at the Royal Institution on the strength, it is said, of a glance at the first page.

Societies and organisations, is short, but includes new material on the Children's Medical Charity based at Westminster Hospital, and on L'lnstitut de la Vie.

Visits and conferences, is also short. It deals with visits in Hodgkin's later years, several of which are additional to those in the previous catalogue.

Peace and humanitarian interests, contains some additional material on Birzeit University in Palestine, and also on several international conferences on peace and disarmament which Hodgkin attended in her later years. there is also the Judgment of the Nuclear Warfare Tribunal of which she was a member (MS. Eng. c. 7951/8).

Correspondence, presents an alphabetical sequence of Hodgkin's scientific correspondents, including Hongying Liao, M.F. Perutz, D.P. Riley, C.H. Waddington and D. Wrinch. Of special interest is the sequence of letters and data documenting the research on vitamin B12 by K.N.T. Trueblood in Los Angeles in collaboration with Hodgkin's team at Oxford (MS. Eng. c. 7957/1-7). This material, kindly passed on by G. Ferry, usefully complements the detailed entries of the previous catalogue.

Non-text material, includes some interesting photographs of a 1924 trip to Egypt and the Sudan, drawings of mosaics and tesserae relating to archaeological finds by Hodgkin's parents, and glass plates of early research on insulin 1935-1936.


  • 1919-2003


6.00 Linear metres (42 physical shelfmarks)

Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

Some material is closed.

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MS. Eng. a. 2040].
Please see our help page for further guidance on citing archives and manuscripts.

Former reference:

NCUACS catalogue no. 135/8/04
Full range of shelfmarks: MSS. Eng. a. 2040, c. 7922-7959; MS. Photogr. c. 501, d. 179, e. 58

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 6019


Personal papers, correspondence, research papers and other material.

Biographical / Historical

Dorothy Mary Crowfoot was born in Cairo in 1910 and brought up in East Anglia. She was educated at the Sir John Leman School, Beccles, and Somerville College, Oxford, where she read chemistry 1928-1932. Apart from two years research at Cambridge University after graduation she remained in Oxford for the rest of her career. Here for twenty-five years she combined teaching chemistry at Somerville, where her students included the future Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, with research at the highest level. She became University lecturer and demonstrator in 1946 and University Reader in X-ray crystallography in 1956. From 1960 to official retirement in 1977 she was Wolfson Research Professor of the Royal Society. She also married and raised a family. In 1937 she married Thomas Lionel Hodgkin (died 1982); they had three children Luke Howard born 1938, Prudence Elizabeth born 1943 and John Robin Tobias born 1946.

Dorothy Hodgkin carried out her first research at Oxford in 1931-1932 with H.M. Powell on the structure of thallium diakyl halides. She then went to Cambridge to work for two years with J.D. Bernal who had just been appointed to start research on the study of crystals by x-ray diffraction and had begun to look at biologically interesting molecules. The international success of his investigations led to increasing demands on his research, and Hodgkin joined him to make the first measurements on materials sent for analysis. The research included work on sterols, vitamin B1 and the protein pepsin, and Hodgkin wrote her thesis for the Ph.D. degree at Cambridge on the results of the research on sterols. On her return to Oxford she decided to concentrate on one crystal structure in detail and (with C.H. Carlisle) correctly analysed cholesterol iodide, the first complex organic molecule to be determined completely by x-ray crystallography. Early in the Second World War the successful tests with penicillin extracts on infected mice by Howard Florey and his team in Oxford led to urgent attempts to determine its chemical structure. Hodgkin and her co-workers accomplished this in three years with x-ray techniques, showing conclusively that the formula of penicillin included [beta] lactam and thiazolidine rings. This x-ray determination was of national importance at the time, and was to have a lasting effect on the development of antibiotics, since in order to make synthetic drugs it is necessary to know the structure of the original material. She later elucidated the structure of cephalosporin C, an antibiotic closely related to penicillin.

After 1948 Hodgkin began work on the x-ray analysis of vitamin B12 which is essential to the life of red blood cells in the body - the inability to absorb sufficient vitamin B12 from the diet leads to pernicious anaemia. The red crystals of the anti pernicious anaemia factor were supplied by E.L. Smith of Glaxo Laboratories and after a lengthy step-by-step analysis lasting nearly ten years she and her team found the structure. The processing of data was aided by three of the first electronic computers located at Manchester University, the National Physical Laboratory, Teddington and the University of California, Los Angeles, and Hodgkin played a leading part in the campaign to provide computer facilities at Oxford University. After the success of the vitamin B12 work Hodgkin and her team refocused their research effort on the crystal structure of insulin-she had taken the first x-ray photographs of insulin crystals in 1935 - and were able to announce the three-dimensional structure of rhombohedral 2 Zn insulin in 1969. Research on insulin refinements continued into the 1980s.

Apart from her scientific research career at Oxford University, Hodgkin undertook a number of prominent public and professional responsibilities including in the UK, Chancellor of Bristol University, 1970-1988, and President of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, 1977-1978, and internationally, President of the International Union of Crystallography, 1972-1975. Hodgkin's involvement in humanitarian and peace issues was given impetus by the Vietnam War. She became Vice-President of the Medical Aid Committee for Vietnam in 1965 and President in 1971. As President she visited North Vietnam in 1971 and 1974. Her second major commitment in the area of peace and international understanding was to the Pugwash movement (Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs), which she served as President, 1976-1988.

Hodgkin was elected FRS in 1947 (Royal Medal 1956, Copley Medal 1976; Tercentenary Lecture 1960, Bakerian Lecture 1972), and was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1964 for her determinations by x-ray techniques of the structures of important biochemical substances. In 1965 she became only the second woman to be appointed to the Order of Merit.


The additional papers were catalogued by the National Cataloguing Unit for the Archives of Contemporary Scientists, who also compiled the first catalogue of Hodgkin's papers. Their reference numbers have been retained as 'Former reference numbers' but Bodleian shelfmarks have been added as the main reference number and these should be used when ordering files and quoting from them. The present Supplement follows the sequence and organisation of the first catalogue of Hodgkin's papers, which laid special emphasis on her scientific and public work and was completed in 1994, shortly before her death (ref: NCUACS 47/3/94).

Custodial History

After her death, many personal and family papers remained in family hands and were transferred on a temporary basis to the Bodleian Library, Oxford for the use of Georgina Ferry whose biography, Dorothy Hodgkin. A Life was published by Granta Books, London in 1998. These are the papers which are presented in this Supplement. In addition, Georgina Ferry has made available the following items: the typescript of the projected (incomplete) biography of Hodgkin by Francis Pagan (MS. Eng. c. 7922/5); Elisabeth Crowfoot's 'Archaeological Biography' of her mother (MS. Eng. c. 7930/1); the correspondence and material relating to research on vitamin B12 which had been passed to her by K.N. Trueblood (MS. Eng. c. 7957/1-7).

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by the Hodgkin family through NCUACS, Nov. 2004.


  • The publication of the first catalogue in 1994 has been followed not only by Ferry's biography but by the Memoir written by G.G. Dodson for the Royal Society (Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society, 48 (2002), 179-219). The numbered notes and references in Ferry's text document her use of the uncatalogued as well as the catalogued papers and her private interviews and research. References to such material in the present catalogue are given in the form (Ferry p...). The Memoir by Dodson includes a bibliography which presents Hodgkin's writings thematically. Because of its official standing as published by the Royal Society it supersedes the chronological listing given in Volume III of the 1994 catalogue and has been used here in the form (Bibliography...). Although the distinction between scientific and personal papers has validity, it is far from absolute, and while it is true that the family and personal correspondence constitutes the main contribution of the present collection, there is additional material from all aspects of Hodgkin's life and work and considerable overlap with the 1994 catalogue. References to the 1994 catalogue, use the full reference number (NCUACS 47/3/94...item number).
Catalogue of additional papers of Dorothy Hodgkin, 1919-2003
Jeannine Alton and Timothy Powell
Language of description
The production of this catalogue was made possible by the support of the following societies and organisations: The Biochemical Society, The British Computer Society, Girton College Cambridge, The Institute of Physics, The Royal Society, The Royal Astronomical Society, The Royal Society of Chemistry, St John's College Cambridge, Trinity College Cambridge, and The Wellcome Trust.

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom