Facts About Marie Maynard Daly, Biochemist

Marie Maynard Daly.
Marie Maynard Daly.

Marie Maynard Daly was an American biochemist of African descent. She earned a Ph.D. in chemistry from Colombia University in 1947 as the first African-American woman to acquire the honors from an American institution. Daly’s significant contributions were in the fields of protein synthesis, histones, the uptake of creatine by muscle cell, and the relationship between hypertension and cholesterol.

6. She was the first black American woman to earn a chemistry PhD

Daly began her senior education at the Hunter College High School where her teachers urged her to pursue chemistry. She later attended Queens College in New York where she graduated in 1942 with a bachelor's degree in chemistry. Daly secured a fellowship to study advanced chemistry at New York University. She joined Columbia University to pursue a Ph.D. in chemistry and graduated in 1947 as the first African-American woman to possess a Ph.D. in chemistry. Dr. Mary Caldwell, a professor of nutrition, supervised her studies at the institution.

5. She made several important scientific contributions

Daly made significant contributions in the field of biochemistry. She developed several methods of separating cellular materials from its components without losing or destroying the cellular matter. She also investigated the actions of protein synthesis especially the role of cytoplasmic ribonucleoprotein on living cells. Daly participated in research concerning the relationship between diet and the circulatory and cardiac systems. In 1953 Crick and Watson cited Daly's papers as a major contribution during their acceptance of the Nobel Prize. In the 1970s, she researched on the action of creatine on muscle cells and the impacts on the energy recycling ability of the muscles.

4. Her father was from the West Indies

Daly's father, Ivan, was an immigrant from the West Indies while her mother Helen was from Washington DC. Her father worked at the post office. Although her family lived in New York, she occasionally visited her grandparents in Washington because her grandfather owned an extensive library where she spent most of the time reading scientific books. Her father had attended Cornell University to pursue a degree in chemistry, but he dropped out due to lack of funds. Daly was motivated to achieve what her father had begun.

3. She had fellowships both to NYU and Columbia University

After earning her bachelors of science in chemistry from Queens College in 1942, Daly received a fellowship to study a master's degree in chemistry at New York University. She worked as a laboratory assistant at Queens College during her study at NYU. After graduating in 1944, Daly received another fellowship to study Ph.D. in chemistry at Columbia University but continued tutoring chemistry at Queens College. After graduating in 1947, she was employed by Howard University as a physical science instructor.

2. She then worked as an instructor at Howard

After completing her doctoral program, Daly served as a physical science instructor at Howard University between 1947 and 1948. The American Cancer Society sponsored her postdoctoral research at the Rockefeller Institute where she joined Alfred E. Mirsky. She participated in several research programs alongside other scientists until 1955 when Columbia University employed her as a biochemistry professor. In 1960, she served as a consultant professor at the Albert Einstein College of medicine until she retired in 1986.

1. There is a school in Queens named for Daly

Daly contributed significantly to the field of biochemistry. She enjoyed researching and teaching medical students. She served as a board member of the New York Academy of science for two years. A year after retiring she established a scholarship program for African-American physics and chemistry students at Queens College. In 1999, the National Teaching Association recognized her among the 50 most influential women in science, engineering and technology. Marie Maynard Daly died on October 28, 2003. In 2016, the New Elementary School P.S.360Q was renamed "The Dr. Marie M. Daly Academy of Excellence" in her honor.


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