Dorothy Mary Moyle was born in London on 22 September 1896. She was educated at Claremont College, Stockport, St Hilary's School, Alderley Edge and Girton College, Cambridge. She passed Part II of the Natural Sciences Tripos, specialising in chemistry, in 1919 and began research with F.G. Hopkins at the Sir William Dunn Institute of Biochemistry, Cambridge. In 1924 Dorothy Moyle married Joseph Needham, a fellow worker in Hopkins's laboratory. She continued research, undertaking important work on carbohydrate metabolism in muscle. From 1930 to 1940 she was involved in pioneering work on the part played by ATP (adenosinetriphosphate) in the contraction of muscle. In 1940 Dorothy Needham joined the chemical defence research group led by Malcolm Dixon and this was followed by a period in China where Joseph Needham was Scientific Counsellor at the British Embassy in Chungking. After the war she returned to Cambridge to research on enzyme biochemistry, retiring from active research in 1963 to work on her book 'Machina Carnis: the biochemistry of muscular contraction in its historical development', published in 1971. In recognition of her work in Cambridge she was elected to the Fellowship of three Cambridge colleges: Girton, Lucy Cavendish and Gonville and Caius, where she was the first woman to be admitted to the Fellowship. She died in 1987.
From the guide to the Personal Papers of Dorothy Mary Moyle Needham, 1871-1995, (Girton College Library, University of Cambridge)