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Marie Maynard Daly: A Famous Chemist’s Biography

Marie Maynard Daly: A Famous Chemist's Biography

Michelle Maynard The first woman of African American descent to earn a Ph.D. in chemistry was Daly. On April 16, 1921, Daly was born in Queens, New York. Samuel and Elizabeth Maynard, her parents, were both West Indian immigrants. Samuel and Elizabeth Maynard both worked in the postal service.

Daly graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Queens College in 1941. Later, she continued on to Columbia University, where she graduated with a doctorate in 1947.

“The Rate of Reaction of Cyanogen Bromide with Proteins” was the topic of Daly’s dissertation. Daly joined the New York State Psychiatric Institute as a research chemist after getting her degree.

Daly wed the lawyer Leon M. Daly in 1950. Two kids were born to the couple. Daly worked as a research chemist and also taught at Hunter College and Columbia University. In 1986, she decided to stop teaching. On October 28, 2003, Daly passed away at the age of 82.

Early Life

On April 16, 1921, Marie Maynard Daly was born in Queens, New York. She was the eldest of the three children in her family. The younger brothers belonged to a fraternity. Ivan Daly, her father, emigrated to the US from the Caribbean in search of a better life.

Her mother Helen Page Daly was raised in Washington, DC, and came from a household that valued education. Ivan, a talented student who received a partial scholarship, enrolled at Cornell University to further his study.

Due to a lack of boarding and maintenance finances, he gave up on his pursuit of a chemistry degree after his first semester. In New York, he was hired by the postal service.

Marie Daly established a reading habit when she was a child. She read Microbe Hunters in her maternal grandfather’s library while visiting them in Washington, DC, thanks to her inquisitive nature.

She learned about the lives and accomplishments of microbiologists like Robert Koch and Louis Pasteur through the book. Her parents encouraged her to work hard in school and succeed in her job despite being an African American woman after noticing her aptitude for the sciences.

She attended New York’s Hunter College High School. She entered Queens College after completing her high school education. She majored in chemistry while in college and received her science degree in 1942.

In order to support herself while pursuing her master’s degree, she accepted a position teaching chemistry to undergraduate students at Queens College. She graduated with a Master’s in Chemistry from New York University in 1943.

Daly graduated from Columbia University with a doctorate in biochemistry four years later, in 1947. Dr. Mary Caldwell provided her with guidance while she completed her thesis.

A Study of the Products Formed by the Action of Pancreatic Amylase on Corn Starch was the title of her thesis, which examined how intestinal molecules in the body break down food. Daly had no idea that she had reached a significant milestone until she graduated.

The fact that she was the first African American woman to receive a doctorate in chemistry was something she discovered afterwards.

Microbiological Research

Daly started working as a lecturer at Howard University’s School of Physical Science in 1947. She served in that capacity until 1948. She obtained a scholarship to enrol in the Rockefeller University’s post-graduate programme as a biochemical researcher.

Daly collaborated with several notables at the university, including Nobel Laureate Francis Peyton Rous and Leonor Michaelis. On the origins of cancer cells in live tissues, Rous conducted in-depth investigation.

The American Cancer Society awarded Daly a research grant. She started working as Dr. Alfred Mirsky’s assistant. Daly researched the cellular architecture of proteins under Mirsky.

She controlled the body’s primary mechanism for producing protein, the metabolism of proteins, to observe changes in cytoplasm activity. She relocated to Columbia University in 1955 to work as an associate scientist. Up until 1959, she was employed by the College of Physicians and Surgeons.

She conducted studies at the institution on the relationship between atherosclerosis and ageing and high blood pressure. She examined the metabolism and the accumulation of extra fat on the artery walls of the heart in her investigation.

She observed that the majority of those with a history of hypertension had an increased risk of suffering a heart attack. Daly noted the connection between smoking cigarettes or other tobacco products and lung deterioration.

She relocated to the same university in 1960 to work as an assistant professor of biochemistry. Up until 1961, she worked in her new position. Dr. Quentin Deming and Daly collaborated to conduct additional study on the metabolism of the cardiac arteries.

She also served as an assistant professor of biochemistry at Yeshiva University in New York in 1971 while conducting scholarly research.

Daly promoted the enrollment of black females in scientific programmes at higher education institutions as part of her efforts to reduce racial disparities and gender obstacles.

She held various positions on other boards. Daly was employed by the New York Health Research Council. Beginning in 1974, she worked for two years on the board of the New York Academy of Sciences. Daly also held leadership positions in other civil rights organizations, such as the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women.

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Later Years

She made the decision to leave academia in 1986. She first gave notice of her resignation from Yeshiva University. She eventually left other academic positions in educational institutes. She established a scholarship foundation two years later to help deserving minority students with their studies in science and medicine.

Personal Life

Vincent Clark and Daly were wed in 1961. She spent her retirement years with him at their Florida retirement community near Sarasota. She frequently paid her relatives and close friends visits in New York.

She used her secret talents for cooking and gardening to escape the human and animal tissue cells that had marked a better portion of her life.


On October 28, 2003, Marie Maynard Daly passed away in New York at the age of 82. In a field where few African American women had ever dared to dream, she chased her dream. Because of her accomplishments, modern science now celebrates medical progress.

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