Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • Professor Hodgkin...

  • ...should be much better known than she is.

  • Scientists admire the great determination and skill

  • which has always been the mark of your work.

  • She was a highly intelligent, highly focused scientist.

  • She would keep going, whatever the difficulties.

  • You just solve the next small problem

  • and eventually the whole problem will crack.

  • Involving what can only be described as gifted intuition.

  • She was a peace lover. She believed in solving problems

  • by dialogue and not by confrontation.

  • In recognition of your services to science...

  • She's the only British woman scientist ever to have won

  • a Nobel prize...

  • ...For chemistry.

  • What was it about Dorothy that made is possible

  • for her to achieve

  • the things she did,

  • at a time when so few women had those opportunities?

  • Dorothy was born in Cairo,

  • her father was very interested in archaeology

  • as was her mother.

  • If there was a dig, archaeological dig, she would try and join in.

  • She also had this amazing ability

  • for recognising patterns and symmetry,

  • and her notebooks show that, from when she was really quite young.

  • When World War One broke out,

  • Dorothy and her then two sisters

  • were brought back to England.

  • She was essentially left

  • as the head of the family.

  • She had to worry about whether there was enough money in the bank account.

  • Her interest in chemistry

  • started when she was only about the age of 10,

  • when she went to a little tiny primary school

  • where they grew crystals

  • and she said herself, "I was captured for life

  • by chemistry and by crystals."

  • When Dorothy was in her teens,

  • one of the discoverers of x-ray crystallography

  • talked about this technique

  • that allows you to see where the atoms are in the molecule

  • and how they're arranged in space,

  • and so she read about being able to see atoms

  • and said to herself there and then, "That's what I want to do."

  • In lectures she was extremely well-known

  • for seemingly having gone to sleep,

  • and yet at the end, Dorothy would ask the most piercing question.

  • She clearly wasn't asleep.

  • What personal qualities have helped you in the work?

  • In some ways, I suppose, a certain kind of foolhardiness

  • for going on, doing things

  • that other people don't expect is quite possible to do.

  • I think a lot of girls grow up with a sense

  • that they don't have the permission to do things they might want to do.

  • One of the characteristics that Dorothy's upbringing gave her

  • was a tremendous sense of agency.

  • When she got married,

  • she was asked to stand down from her fellowship at college.

  • Eventually this was changed,

  • and she also managed to be awarded maternity leave.

  • She was the first woman to have that at the University of Oxford.

  • It paved the way for other women

  • who wanted to have a fulfilled scientific life

  • and also to have a family.

  • After Dorothy's first child was born,

  • she suffered an attack of acute rheumatoid arthritis

  • and left her with distorted hands and feet.

  • As she got older, the arthritis did recur

  • but she didn't let it hold her back.

  • Dorothy was very much engaged in international issues

  • and so she was vehemently opposed to the war in Vietnam

  • and indeed visited north Vietnam.

  • She did travel extensively and she made a point of visiting,

  • first of all, the Soviet Union, and subsequently China.

  • It was the height of the Cold War, but scientific relations continued

  • and she was always very keen to make contact.

  • Internationalism was a very big part of her make-up.

  • Dorothy remains the only woman scientist

  • in this country to win a Nobel prize.

  • The determination of the structure of vitamin B12

  • has been considered the crowning triumph

  • of x-ray crystallographic analysis.

  • The Daily Mail ran the headline

  • 'Housewife wins Nobel prize'.

  • The reaction of newspapers in the 60s

  • whenever women achieved anything

  • was absolutely appalling.

  • Dorothy's influence on modern medicine

  • is almost incalculable.

  • All the problems that Dorothy chose to work on

  • were problems that would contribute

  • to a better understanding of the body in health and disease.

  • Penicillin. The knowledge of its structure was enormously important

  • in the Second World War.

  • Its structure was not understood until she solved it.

  • It enabled doctors to use materials that had been synthesised

  • in a laboratory and apply those to the sick patients.

  • The way in which those drugs are made now

  • rely a lot on the structure that Dorothy determined.

  • She gave the impression

  • to those who didn't know her perhaps

  • of being a frail old lady, which of course she wasn't.

  • There was nothing frail

  • about Dorothy's mind, attitude, kindness and so on.

  • Dorothy should be remembered for blazing a trail, really,

  • for showing that women can be scientists

  • and not only be scientists, but be extremely successful scientists.

  • She gave to the world the knowledge

  • but also the way to do it,

  • the determination not to give up.

  • If you know and think you can do it, keep working at it.

  • And if that's not the definition of exceptional,

  • I'm not sure what is.

  • Thank you, Doctor Hodgkin.

Professor Hodgkin...

Subtitles and vocabulary

Operation of videos Adjust the video here to display the subtitles

B1 dorothy nobel prize nobel structure determination chemistry

The exceptional life of Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin | BBC Ideas

  • 3 1
    Summer posted on 2021/10/14
Video vocabulary