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Intriguing new book on two famous Oxford Ladies


By Rob Walters


Most people do not know what a crystallographer does, and if asked to name one crystallographer, most of us would need to call a friend... and the friend would probably need to visit Wikipedia.


Everyone knows what a UK Prime Minister does, or what he or she should do. If asked to name one they could and could certainly name the first woman Prime Minister of the UK, though some would not want to do so. Yet they probably could not name the only UK woman to gain a Nobel Prize in science, even though these two women should be equally famous.

Most people know that the UK's first woman Prime Minister began her adult life at Oxford University studying chemistry. However, chemistry is a big subject, surely she had to specialise - and yes, so she did: in crystallography. Her tutor was to become a big name in that field: she used X-rays to investigate the structure of molecules and came up with solutions for cholesterol, penicillin, vitamin B12 and insulin. Dorothy Hodgkin truly deserved her Nobel prize.


Now, Dorothy was not at all like Margaret Thatcher: she had a communist lover, eulogised the Soviet Union and Communist China and was a pacifist. Margaret, even as a student, was an avowed Conservative and chauvinist. So what would these two women talk about? That is exactly the question author Rob Walters endeavours to answer in his book "Political Chemistry: Margaret Thatcher and Dorothy Hodgkin”


It's good, very good! Peter Ashby FRSA, Consultant.


I read the first few chapters of Margaret and Dorothy’s conversations last night and enjoyed it – on a number of levels: the well-told and absorbing story of a developing relationship; the lesser-known biographical details (well, lesser known to me anyway); the content of the discussions –fundamental opposing political ideas discussed intelligently and without rancour. D'Arcy Vallance, Author and ELT Consultant


Really enjoyed the book.  The subject matter is fascinating, whetted my appetite to read more ... haven't read anything on Margaret (the blood might boil!) and limited stuff on Dorothy. Really enjoyed the book.  The subject matter is fascinating, whetted my appetite to read more. Maureen  Minton, Oxford City Guide.


...it's the topics of conversation which make it an interesting read. Most of the subjects are still with us and contentious like the social issues of gender, bringing up children, education and women's equal place in society, the morality of science. Björn Runngren. Swedish Anglophile.


The conversations take place during Margaret's fourth year at Oxford during which she carried out research work in Dorothy's crystallography lab. They range widely over topics from socialism to sexual freedom and council housing to nationalisation. Of course, no one knows exactly what they did discuss, but the conversations are soundly based in the factual world of post war Britain and do reflect the characters of these two very interesting women.


There are in total fifteen short conversations which explore many topics. At the same time, they also shine a light on the interaction between the two women themselves. Here are some of the conversation titles:

Mothers

Grammar School Girls

Women in Politics

Crystal Clear

Socialism Abroad

Marriage and Children

Social Housing

Battle of the Sexes

Science and War

Free Milk and Nationalisation

Sexual Morality

Political Activism

The British Empire

Free Will

In the opening chapter, the author lists his qualifications for the daunting task of creating this fascinating dialogue. Among them is the change in his own political allegiance and the strength of that allegiance during his life. It is this which gives him the confidence to argue from both a left and right wing perspective through the words of his chosen subjects - Margaret and Dorothy. This also encourages an even hand, and hopefully leaves the reader's feathers reasonably unruffled, regardless of the colour of those feathers.


In the concluding chapter he records what happens next. Margaret and Dorothy's relationship did not end when the budding politician left the grassy enclaves of Somerville College, Oxford. There was more, much more.

Though set in an era immediately following the end of WWII, there is still much to be learned from these discussions - many of which still remain open.


The book is already available through Amazon as a Kindle eBook and through Smashwords in a range of eBook formats. It will be released as a paperback at the end of February 2014. More details at robsbookshop.com. Images of the book cover and review copies are available electronically if required.



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Margaret Thatcher and Dorothy Hodgkin

Political Chemistry