1964 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

ebarak at NSF.GOV ebarak at NSF.GOV
Wed Aug 3 13:21:38 EST 1994


Text item: Text_1

Some of you may have read recently the obituary notices for Dr. 
Dorothy Crawfoot Hodgkin, winner of the 1964 Nobel Prize for Chemistry 
for her pioneering work in X-ray crystallography of peptides.

When I was an undergrad I took Biochemistry in 1967, just three years 
after she got her Prize.  I learned about the "great names" in 
protein X-ray crystallography in that course: Sir Charles Bragg, Sir 
John Kendrew, Max Perutz.  Then, in 1968 and 1969, I took additional 
biochemistry courses in graduate school (I won't say where, but my 
esteemed professors included several pioneering protein chemists 
themselves, many of them Nobelists themselves, some now deceased and 
others still alive and well), where again I learned the names of the 
great pioneers of protein X-ray crystallography: Bragg, Kendrew, 
Perutz ...  I did learn about Rosalind Franklin, not in any protein 
chemistry course but in Genetics, and then of course only in the 
"watson-crick" context.  

The point is that UNTIL I SAW DR. HODGKIN'S OBITUARY IN THE 
NEWSPAPER, I HAD NEVER HEARD OF HER!  This is particularly 
embarrassing considering that some people think of me as a biochemist 
by profession (my husband, who IS a biochemist by profession, knows 
better, of course, but that's another matter ...)

I've been thinking about this, as I often think about "women's issues" 
in my profession, and have come to the tentative conclusion that women 
in science were simply "transparent."  My professors were undoubtedly 
not at all malicious in their failure to mention Dr. Hodgkin's 
accomplishments, they just didn't think of her.  I suspect that if some 
knowledgeable student in the class had raised his/her hand and asked, 
"what about Dr. Hodgkin?"  the teacher's reply would have been 
something like this:   "Hodgkin? Huh?  Oh! You mean, er, Hodgkin of the 
Hodgkin-Huxley ... oh, no, yes, of course, what's her name, er, Dorothy 
Hodgkin!  Yes, yes ..."   

I'm curious to know to what extent things have changed over the past 
25 years.  Have they?  

Eve Barak 
(a card-carrying cell biologist, with pretensions to biochemistry)




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