Marie Maynard Daly
American biochemist Marie Maynard Daly, died 2003, was the first African American woman in the United States to earn a Ph.D. in chemistry, awarded by Columbia University in 1947.
The early research of Marie Maynard Daly (1921–2003) included studies of the effects of cholesterol on the mechanics of the heart, the effects of sugars and other nutrients on the health of arteries, and the breakdown of the circulatory system as a result of advanced age or hypertension. Later she studied how proteins are produced and organized in the cell.
Daly enrolled in the doctoral program at Columbia University after working for a year tutoring chemistry students at Queens College. She also obtained funding from the university to help in her full-time study of chemistry. Under the direction of Mary L. Caldwell, who was known for her work on the important digestive enzyme amylase, Daly researched how compounds produced in the body affect and participate in digestion. The title of her dissertation was “A Study of the Products Formed by the Action of Pancreatic Amylase on Corn Starch.” She was awarded her doctoral degree in 1947, only three years after enrolling in the program, and was the first African American woman to obtain a Ph.D. in chemistry in the United States.
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Excerpted with permission, Chemical Heritage Foundation