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