Dorothy Hodgkin looked at how atoms fit together into very complicated molecules. She used X-ray crystallography to find out what penicillin and insulin look like. Knowing what the molecules look like has helped other scientists understand how these molecules work, and to make new medicines.

Scottish Curriculum Links



TCH 3-01a

Technological developments in society

The story behind the image

Where did our design for the Crystal Clear resource come from?

Crystal Clear design

Back in the 1950s, a team of designers led by a scientist, Dr Helen Megaw, began to use designs inspired by crystal structure in their work.

Here is a section of a drawing, published in a scientific paper in 1988, by Dorothy Hodgkin and her colleages. Can you see some similar shapes to the design above?

Crystal structure drawing of insulin

From drawings such as the one above, designers created repeating designs, for use in things like wallpaper and fabric. Below you can see "Insulin 8.25 Wallpaper", designed by Robert Sevant.

Insulin wallpaper

Image courtesy of V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum.

To find out more, visit the Wellcome Collection website to view their exhibition "From Atoms to Patterns".