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Marie Maynard Daly ( 1921 - 2003 )  Category ( Chemists ) [suggest a correction]

Marie Maynard Daly, the first African-American woman to earn a Ph.D. in chemistry was born on April 16, 1921 in Queens, New York. Her mother, Helen Page Daly was a homemaker who encouraged her daughter’s studies from an early age. Her father, Ivan Daly came from the British West Indies and worked as postal carrier in New York. As a young man, he loved chemistry and got as far as one semester at Cornell University on a scholarship. After that, he had to quit as he was unable to afford the room and board costs.

Daly followed in her father’s footsteps. She discovered an interest in science early on in life. Not only her parents, but also her teachers encouraged her academic pursuits. She attended Hunter College High School, a school for girls run by Hunter College. All of the faculty members were women and left Daly with a positive impression of women in academics.

After high school, Daly attended the newly opened Queens College in order to stay close to home. She decided to major in chemistry and graduated magna cum laude in 1942. She was a Queens College scholar and a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Xi. While earning a master’s degree at New York University, Daly worked at Queens College as a lab and teaching assistant.

After receiving her master’s degree, Daly entered Columbia University to earn a Ph.D. in chemistry. She knew that without that degree, her career options were limited. At NYU, she studied chemical digestion of food under Dr. Mary Letitia.

Daly worked for one year as an instructor at Howard University after completing graduate school. In 1948, she began working at the Rockefeller Institute of Medicine. For four years beginning in 1955, Daly worked as a biochemist at Columbia under Dr. Quentin B. Deming. She worked on artery metabolism and the relationship between high cholesterol and heart attacks.

In 1960, Daly moved to Yeshiva University to continue working with Dr. Deming. She was an assistant and then associate professor of biochemistry at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. During her tenure at Yeshiva she worked concurrently as a cancer researcher at the Health Research Council of New York.

In 1986, Daly left Yeshiva University and served for three years on the Commission for Science and Technology of the City of New York. In 1989, she retired completely from research. She and her husband Vincent Clark moved to Sarasota, Florida. Daly died on October 28, 2003.

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