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Dorothy and Linus: science brings the world together

[Hodgkin] Dorothy Hodgkin as she graduated from Cambridge in 1935.

Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin and Linus Carl Pauling, share a common interest in crystallography, young people, and international peace. They embody the spirit of the IUCr and have been an inspiration to generations of crystallographers.

Dorothy was born in Cairo, Egypt on May 12, 1910 where her father, an archaeologist, was an inspector for the Ministry of Education. Her mother was a botanist and an authority on ancient textiles. Dorothy's early interest in crystals was stimulated by Sir William H. Bragg's book Concerning the Nature of Things given to her by her mother when she was 15. After conducting a research project on crystallography at Somerville College in Oxford, she spent two years at Cambridge working with J. D. Bernal examining crystals of vitamin D and other steroids. After receiving her doctorate from Cambridge in 1937, Dorothy took the powerful technique of crystallography and turned her attention to pressing problems in the health field.

There was a great demand for penicillin during World War II. The ability to synthesize it depended upon unambiguous information about its stereochemistry. Using crystallography Dorothy determined the essential features of the structure in 1945. When she initiated work on the structure of vitamin B12 in 1948, it was an order of magnitude large than any structure previously studied crystallographically and it was clear that it would bear little resemblance to any previously determined chemical structure. It took six years just to collect the data on crystals of the cobalt-containing compound and her research was one of the first crystallographic studies to make extensive use of computers. The structure which was important to understanding blood chemistry and controlling anemia was published in 1957. Studies of insulin that Dorothy began in 1935 continue to occupy her today.

She was the President of the IUCr from 1972 to 1975 and served as the President of Pugwash, an organization dedicated to avoiding world conflict through communication and mutual understanding.

Her greatest passions were her husband Thomas; their three children, Luke, Lizzy, and Toby; nurturing science in under-developed countries; and encouraging young women scientists. She has made frequent trips to Russia, India, and China, and was largely responsible for stimulating the development of macromolecular crystallography there. A three volume collection of her published works with introductory essays by Sir Max Perutz, Jack Dunitz, David Phillips, B. K. Vainshtein, Dong-cai Liang, Chih-chen Wang, S. Ramaseshan, Guy Dodson, Jenny Glusker, and Barbara Low was recently published by the Indian Academy of Science (Interline Publishing 40/1-1, 5th Corn. Wilson Garden, Bangalore 560 027, India). Despite crippling arthritis that confines her to a wheelchair, she traveled halfway around the world to be with her many friends, very old and very young, at the XVI Congress and General Assembly in Beijing. As her body becomes more frail, her spirit becomes more intense. She could be a metaphor for the power of crystallography. She is a source that generates, enlightens, and sustains.

[Pauling] Linus Pauling and his Model A. (Courtesy of the Archives, California Inst. of Technology)

Linus was born in Portland Oregon on Feb. 28, 1901. His father and his mother's father were pharmacists. Watching sulfuric acid turn white sugar into a mass of black carbon first drew Linus to the field of chemistry. While in graduate school at the California Inst. of Technology (CIT) in the 1920's, he worked with early X-ray crystallographer Roscoe Dickinson, published his first paper on molybdenite, and defended a thesis based on his crystallographic structure papers. In his remarkable career he opened one exciting new field of research after another from X-ray studies of silicates, and electron diffraction studies of benzene to magnetic studies of hemoglobin. Weaving together theory and experiment, he developed the concept of the complementarity of antibody-antigen interactions in 1940. His contribution during World War II to the development of artificial plasma for wounded soldiers, oxygen detectors useful in submarines, rocket propellants, and inks for secret writing, earned him a Presidential Medal of Merit. Later he postulated that sickle cell anemia was caused by genetic mutation and went on to prove it.

Linus began thinking about the 3-dimensional structure of proteins in the early 30's and made one of his most significant contributions to the problem in 1950 with the publishing of his model of the alpha-helix. In his book the Double Helix, James Watson claimed that he was concerned that Linus Pauling would determine the nature of the structure of deoxyribonucleic acid before he and Francis Crick did and that Pauling's work was a stimulation to theirs.

In the 1950's Linus became deeply concerned about the health hazards of testing of nuclear weapons in the atmosphere. He presented a petition signed by 9000 scientists in 44 countries to the United Nations calling for an end to the testing. He defied the US Congress when they demanded information on who had helped him gather the signatures. Because of his actions he was repeatedly denied a passport, which hampered his scientific career but brought him a Nobel Peace Prize in 1962.

In the late 1960's Linus took up another crusade that set him at odds with another branch of the establishment, this time the medical profession. On the basis of empirical evidence he advocated the use of megadoses of vitamin C to combat first the common cold and later cancer.

The emergence of the controversy about the structure of quasi crystals has recently brought Linus full circle to the topic that launched his brilliant career, modeling the nature of crystal structures. In 1987, the American Crystallographic Association (ACA) asked Linus's permission to give annual awards in his name to the authors of the best student posters at the annual ACA meeting. Although Linus was unable to attend, Dorothy was present at the Austin meeting of the ACA and presented the first Pauling Prizes in 1987. Since then twenty-six students have been pleased to add the award of a Pauling Prize to their curriculum vita.

[Hodgkin at ACA meeting] Dorothy Hodgkin surrounded by young women crystallographers at a poster session at the Philadelphia ACA meeting, Carol Huber (Canada) and Anita Lewitt-Bently (USA) are on the left. (Photo W.L.D.)

In celebration of Dorothy's 80th birthday in 1990, the BCA created the 'Dorothy Hodgkin Prize.' Nominations for the prize are welcomed from any part of the Crystallographic Community and the awards are made at the BCA Spring Meetings. At the same time, the Glaxo Group Research initiated the Dorothy Hodgkin Scholarship in the field of structural chemistry in recognition of her long association with Glaxo, while working on beta-lactams and on vitamin B12.

[A helix] The model of the α-helix first proposed by Pauling in 1951 (from the Proceedings of National Academy of Science Vol 37, P207).

Both the Pauling Prize of the ACA and the Hodgkin Prize of the BCA are being endowed through the generosity of the membership of these organizations and the contributions of friends from around the world. If you would like to add your name to that list of friends of Dorothy, Linus, and Crystallography, contributions may be sent to:

Pauling Prize/ACA, c/o Marcia Vair, PO Box 96 Ellicott Station, Buffalo, NY 14205-0096, USA

The Dorothy Hodgkin Prize/BCA, I. Langford, Treasurer, Dept. of Physics, The U. of Birmingham B15 2TT, UK

For donations from outside the respective countries, credit cards (ACA) and money orders (ACA and BCA), are most cost effective.

[Vitamin B12] An illustration of the structure of Vitamin B12 from the paper by Hodgkin, Kamper, Lindsey, McKay, Pickworth (Glusker), Robertson, Shoemaker, White, Prosen and Trueblood, Proc. Roy Soc. (London), A249, 247 (1957).

Portions of this account of the lives of Hodgkin and Pauling were condensed from the biographies by R. J. Parasdowski and N. W. Hunter published by the American Chemical Society and the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Nobel Laureates in Chemistry 1901-1992.