Frederick Gowland Hopkins was born in Eastbourne, Sussex in 1861. He was educated at the City of London School and Alexandra Park College, Hornsey. In 1878 he was articled to a consulting analyst but quickly moved on to study chemistry at the Royal School of Mines, South Kensington and then to an associateship in the Institute of Chemistry at University College, London. From 1884 he acted as assistant to Thomas Stevenson, Home Office analyst and lecturer at Guy's hospital. Hopkins entered Guy's Hospital 1888, gained his B.Sc. in 1890 and became medically qualified in 1894. He continued at Guy's discharging a number of duties as assistant to the physiology department and fitting in research whenever possible (notably on the pigmentation of pieridae butterflies).
In 1898, under the patronage of Michael Foster, Hopkins became a lecturer in the University of Cambridge physiology department being promoted to reader in 1902. He combined this work with a tutorial post at Emmanuel College and research work when possible. Trinity College awarded him a praelectorship in 1910 greatly increasing his ability to dedicate time to research. From 1914-43 Hopkins was made the first professor of biochemistry. From 1921 the professorship was restyled the Sir William Dunn professor of biochemistry.
Hopkins was instrumental in giving precision to ideas about the existence of vitamins. He closely studied the chemistry of intermediary metabolism and is credited with the establishment of biochemistry, both in Cambridge and internationally, as a separate discipline from physiology.
He was accorded numerous accolades and honours in his latter years including numerous honorary degrees, prizes from learned societies; a shared Nobel Prize for physiology in 1929; the presidency of the Royal Society 1930-1935; presidency of the British Association in 1933; a knighthood in 1925; and the award of the Order of Merit in 1935.
Hopkins continued to undertake some work in the Biochemistry laboratory after his retirement in 1943, although failing eyesight meant he increasingly required assistance. He died on 16 May 1947 aged 85. He was survived by his wife of 49 years Jessie Ann Hopkins (née Stevens); his daughter Barbara Elizabeth Holmes, biochemist; his son Frederick Edward Gowland Hopkins, physician; and his daughter (Jessie) Jacquetta Hawkes (other married name Priestley), archaeologist and writer.
Approximately one third of the bulk of papers comprise working papers and notebooks. About another quarter comprises correspondence, certificates and ephemera relating to honours awarded by various bodies or relating to Frederick Gowland Hopkins' association with learned societies. The remaining material is a combination of papers and photographs generated by Frederick Gowland Hopkins' family (much of it predating his birth); together with correspondence and papers he generated in a personal capacity. A handful of published biographies and obituaries were added to the collection prior to deposit.
The collection was presented by Joseph Needham, Sc.D; Mrs Barbara Holmes, Ph.D; and Malcolm Dixon, Sc.D, in 1962. It is apparent from annotations on the material, or its wrappers, that the former two depositors inserted many items from a variety of sources into the main body of material accumulated by Frederick Gowland Hopkins. It is not certain that they annotated all items prior to insertion. The supporting material catalogued as MS Add.7620/1/18 was supplied by Stanley L. Becker, Ph.D, in March 1990. Additional deposits of family photographs, ephemera and biographical items were made by Dr Nicolas Hawkes. The material may be identified by the text 'Hawkes: 5 June 2010' or 'Hawkes: 4 Aug. 2010'.
The material was presented without a system of arrangement thus the cataloguing archivist of 2009 imposed current order to facilitate access. Original archival order was preserved within discreet files, envelopes or bundles. The accruals of 2010 have largely been left as a single sequence labelled '/N', which is effectively section /8. Some items have been incorporated in the sequences of the 2009 arrangement.