Alan Hodgkin was born on 5 February 1914, son of George Lloyd Hodgkin and his wife Mary. He attended school in Cornwall and Norfolk, winning a scholarship to Trinity College Cambridge in 1932. Although his intention was to study Zoology, he took physiology in his final year. As a result of research on nerve fibres he was elected to a Junior Research Fellowship by Trinity in 1936, spent a year at the Rockefeller Institute in New York and returned to a college lectureship at Trinity in 1938.
After war-work that was for the most part radar-related, Hodgkin resumed his academic career, supported by his wife Marni, whom he had married in 1944. He became University Lecturer in 1946 and Assistant Director of Research the following year. In 1952 he took up a Royal Society Foulterton Research Professorship and in 1970 he became John Humphrey Plummer Professor of biophysics at Cambridge. Throughout this period, much of his research was done alongside Andrew Huxley on the physiology of nerve fibres. For this work Hodgkin and Huxley were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in 1963; this was shared with John Eccles for unrelated work. Other collaborators included R. D. Keynes, T. I. Shaw, R. H. Adrian, M. G. F. Fuortes and D. A. Bayler.
From 1970 to 75 Hodgkin was President of the Royal Society at a time it required considerable reforms to ensure it remained financially independent. These he achieved, though he was less successful in influencing government policy on the financing of scientific research. He was knighted in 1972. In 1978 he succeeded Lord Butler as Master of Trinity, holding the post until 1984. He died in 1998.