Daly, Marie Maynard (Chemist)

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daly_maynard_marie_2_300x300Marie Maynard Daly (April 16, 1921 – October 28, 2003) was an American biochemist. She was the first African American woman in the United States to earn a Ph.D. in chemistry (awarded by Columbia University in 1947).

Daly’s father had immigrated from the British West Indies, found work as a postal clerk, and eventually married Helen Page of Washington, D.C. They lived in New York, and Daly was born and raised in Corona, Queens. She often visited her maternal grandparents in Washington, where she was able to read about scientists and their achievements in her grandfather’s extensive library. She was especially impressed by Paul de Kruif’s The Microbe Hunters, a work which partially influenced her decision to become a scientist.

Daly’s father, who had attended Cornell University with intentions of becoming a chemist, was unable to complete his education due to a lack of funds. His daughter was there for continuing her father’s legacy by majoring in chemistry. Many years later, Daly started a Queens College scholarship fund in her father’s honor to assist minority students majoring in chemistry or physics.

In 1955 Daly returned to Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons to teach biochemistry. She began collaborating with Dr. Quentin B. Deming to investigate the underlying causes of heart attacks. They found that high cholesterol levels contributed to the blockage of arteries that supply oxygen to the heart. She also investigated the effects of sugar on the function of coronary arteries. Later, she became a pioneer in studying the impact of cigarette smoking on the lungs.

In 1960 Daly and Deming moved to Yeshiva University at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City. At Yeshiva, she continued her research and taught biochemistry courses. She enjoyed teaching medical students and was dedicated to increasing the number of minority students enrolled in medical schools. In 1961 Daly married Vincent Clark.

Daly also served as an investigator for the American Heart Association; she was especially interested in how hypertension affects the circulatory system. She was a member of the prestigious Board of Governors of the New York Academy of Sciences for two years. Daly retired from the Einstein College of Medicine in 1986, and in 1988 she established a scholarship for African American chemistry and physics majors at Queens College in memory of her father.

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