She pioneered the technique of X-ray crystallography, a method used to determine the three dimensional structures of biomolecules. Among her most influential discoveries are the confirmation of the structure of penicillin that Ernst Boris Chain had previously surmised, and then the structure of vitamin B12, for which she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. In 1969, after 35 years of work and five years after winning the Nobel Prize, Hodgkin was able to decipher the structure of insulin.
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- Would it not be better if one could really 'see' whether molecules...were just as experiments suggested?
- the question that decided her to specialize in X-ray cristallography, as quoted by Sharon Bertsch McGrayne (1998). Nobel Prize women in science: their lives, struggles, and momentous discoveries. Joseph Henry Press. p. 231. ISBN 0-309-07270-0.
- One's tendency when one is young is to do experiments just to see what will happen, without really looking for specific things at all. I first set up a little laboratory in the attic at home just to grow crystals or try experiments described in books, such as adding a lot of concentrated sulfuric acid to the blood from a nosebleed which precipitates hemotin from the hemoglobin in the blood. That was quite a nice experiment. I still remember it.
- interviewed by Olivia Cox-Fill (1996). For our daughters: how outstanding women worldwide have balanced home and career. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 171. ISBN 0-275-95199-5.
- I once wrote a lecture for Manchester University called « Moments of Discovery » in which I said that there are two moments that are important. There's the moment when you know you can find out the answer and that's the period you are sleepless before you know what it is. When you've got it and know what it is, then you can rest easy.
- interviewed by Olivia Cox-Fill (1996). For our daughters: how outstanding women worldwide have balanced home and career. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 176. ISBN 0-275-95199-5.