Do you know Marie M. Daly
By Nicole Nutting
As we teeter on the cusp of Black History Month and Women’s History Month, I offer a shout out to a woman who fits in BOTH categories!
Future chemist Marie M. Daly was born on April 16, 1921, in Queens, New York. The pioneering scientist was the first African American woman to receive a Ph.D. in chemistry in the United States, and her groundbreaking work helped clarify how the human body works.
Daly came from a family who believed strongly in the power of education. Her father, Ivan C. Daly, had emigrated from the West Indies as a young man and enrolled at Cornell University to study chemistry. A lack of money blocked his path, however, and he was forced to quit college, instead returning to New York City where he found work as a postal clerk.
Daly didn’t waste time in completing her studies. She finished her master’s degree in just a year and then, in 1944, enrolled at Columbia University as a doctoral student. Aided by her own ambition and intelligence, She was further helped by timing. World War II was at its peak, and employers were looking for women to fill the jobs left by the scores of men who’d been sent overseas to fight. In addition, Columbia’s chemistry program was being led by Dr. Mary L. Caldwell, a renowned scientist who helped blaze new trails for women in chemistry throughout her career.
In 1955, she returned to Columbia, working closely with Dr. Quentin B. Deming on the causes of heart attacks. Their groundbreaking work, which was later relocated to the Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University in New York, disclosed the relationship between high cholesterol and clogged arteries. That work opened up a new understanding of how foods and diet can affect the health of the heart and the circulatory system.
Thank you, Dr. Daly. You are a true icon in the long list of African American Women Role Models!