Dorothy Crowfoot was born on May 12, 1910, in Cairo, where her dad, John Winter Crowfoot, worked for the Egyptian Education Service. Her father soon moved to Sudan, where he later became Director of Education and Antiquities;
Dorothy went to visit Sudan as a child in 1923 and developed a strong attachment to the country. After leaving Sudan in 1926, her father devoted most of his time to archaeology, serving as Director of the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem for several years and conducting excavations on Mount Ophel, Jerash, Bosra, and Samaria.
Dorothy Crowfoot expended one season digging up at Jerash and drawing mosaic sidewalks with her parents between high school and university, and she loved it so much that she strongly contemplated abandoning chemistry for archaeology.
She had become interested in chemistry and crystals around the age of ten, and this interest was incentivized by Dr. A.F. Joseph, a friend of her parents in Sudan, who gave her chemicals and assisted her in analyzing ilmenite during her stay there.
Norah Pusey and Dorothy Crowfoot, two other girls, were invited to enter the boys doing chemistry class, with Miss Deeley as their teacher; by the finish of her school career, she had chosen to study chemistry and possibly biochemistry at university.
She spent a couple of happy years in Cambridge, making several friends and tackling a variety of problems with Bernal. Somerville awarded her a research fellowship in 1933, with the first year at Cambridge and the second at Oxford.
She spent the majority of her working life as an Official Fellow and Tutor in Natural Science at Somerville, primarily teaching chemistry to women’s colleges. In 1946, she was appointed as a University lecturer and demonstrator, in 1956 as a University Reader in X-ray Crystallography, and in 1960 as a Wolfson Research Professor of the Royal Society.
Dr. Crowfoot remained in the subdepartment of Chemical Crystallography after the department was divided in 1944, with H.M. Powell as Reader under Professor C.N. Hinshelwood. Her research group grew gradually and has always been a loosely knit group of students and guests from various universities, focusing primarily on X-ray analysis of organic products.
She married Thomas Hodgkin in 1937, the son of one historian and the grandson of two others, whose main area of curiosity has been the history and politics of Africa and the Arab world, and who is currently Director of the Institute of African Studies at the University of Ghana, where she also works. Their younger son spent a year in India before heading to Newcastle to study Botany and, eventually, Agriculture.