Celebrating Hopkins and biochemistry

Nicolas Hawkes with a presentation copy of the catalogue

Nicolas Hawkes with a presentation copy of the catalogue to MS Add.7620: the Hopkins Papers

On Friday afternoon it was my very great pleasure to attend the unveiling of a plaque commemorating the Nobel Prize winning biochemist Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins just up the way from the University Library at the home that he built for his family in Grange Road. The event was organised by Nicolas Hawkes, Hopkins’s grandson, and the plaque was produced by letter cutter Mark Bury, FRSA. Bury, by happy coincidence, is part of the family that have owned the property since Lady Hopkins died in 1955.

My colleague Adam Perkins, Curator of Scientific Manuscripts, and I were delighted to present a copy of the catalogue to the papers of Frederick Gowland Hopkins to Nicolas during the reception that followed the unveiling. The catalogue was beautifully bound and lettered in gold by the UL’s in house bindery. We were pleased to have a public opportunity to thank Nicolas not only for generously providing the funds for me to catalogue the main bulk of papers which had been with the UL since 1962 but also for his painstaking volunteer work in cataloguing photographs and ephemera which were added to the collection in 2010.

Hopkins's home in Grange Road from the garden

Hopkins's home in Grange Road from the garden

The production of the catalogue was timely for Felicity Henderson of the Royal Society, as it allowed her to identify the items which were borrowed by the Society for their exhibition Frederick Gowland Hopkins and the chemistry of life shown earlier this year. The exhibition was timed to coincide with the 150th anniversary of Hopkins’s birth and commemorated both his biochemical work and his tenure as president of the Royal Society.

Hopkins’s main biographer is Dr Alison Thomas of Anglia Ruskin University and I strongly recommend to you her contributions to the news article announcing the plaque unveiling on the Cambridge University news feed in which she gives a lively account of his achievements, noting particularly his practical advocacy of women scientists and his efforts to help German scientists flee the Nazi regime in the 1930s: http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/news/dp/2011060301

Dr Thomas and Professor Gerard Evan, Head of the Cambridge University Department of Biochemistry, spoke eloquently about these two subjects before a distinguished audience at the unveiling.

Adam Perkins, Nicolas Hawkes and Zoe Rees with the Hopkins Plaque

Adam Perkins, Nicolas Hawkes and Zoe Rees with the Hopkins Plaque

An integrated catalogue of the collection may be viewed online at the Janus website which contains catalogues from archival collections across Cambridge: www.janus.lib.cam.ac.uk. A hard copy catalogue will also shortly be available in the Manuscripts Reading Room where anyone with a Cambridge University Library reader’s card validated for Manuscripts may consult the collection. Information on how to apply for reader status is online on the Library’s Admissions pages.

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