Dorothy  Crowfoot Hodgkin (1983) - Insulin 1983

Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin (1983)

Insulin 1983

Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin (1983)

Insulin 1983

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According to the Statutes of the Nobel Foundation, each Nobel Laureate has to deliver a lecture describing the work that has been rewarded by the Nobel Prize. The published texts of these Nobel Lectures constitute a valuable document for historians of science, culture and politics, since it often happens that this is the only time the Laureates officially tell the stories behind the rewarded discoveries, inventions, etc. But since the start of the Lindau Meetings in 1951, many Nobel Laureates have adapted their Nobel Lectures to a somewhat younger audience and told their stories over and over again. This is so for Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin, who first came to Lindau in 1970 to give a talk on “Structure of Insulin” and now in 1983 for the third time gave very much the same talk under the heading “Insulin 1983”. Since the major part of the audience in 1983 was not present in 1970 (probably being still in school), this repetition of the story of the structure of insulin mainly reached new ears and minds. But through the discovery of these historic Lindau tape recordings, we can now hear the story again and we can follow the changes that have been made, the stress put on different parts of it and also the change in the speaker, who in 1983 became 73 years of age. My own impression is that the speaker has realized the composition of the audience better than in 1970 and now gives a talk which is easier to follow and therefore more enjoyable. We know that Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin was still active in trying to understand not only the structure of insulin, but also the way it functions in the living organism, and some of the new realizations are also pointed out in the lecture. Finally, I was interested to hear her strong support of the much disputed 1923 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine to John Mcleod, who shared it with Frederick Banting for the discovery of insulin, while Banting’s younger coworker Charles Best was left out. As Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin explains, without Mcleod guidance, the other two would never have discovered insulin at all!

Anders Bárány

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