Dr. Marie Maynard Daly was born in 1921 in Queens, New York to loving parents, and most notably, a father who was absolutely fascinated by science. Forced by economic hardships to drop out of Cornell University during his studies in science, Daly’s father instilled into his children a deep appreciation for science.
As Marie attended high school, she definitely caught the science bug and was enthralled by Paul De Kruif’s book The Microbe Hunters. After a successful high school career at Hunter College High School, Marie was encouraged by mentors and teachers to continue to pursue her passion for all things STEM so she applied and was accepted to Queens College where she earned her bachelors of science on chemistry, graduating magna cum laude.
Inspired by her father and the dreams he had foregone to make sacrifices for his family, Marie went on to pursue her doctorate at Columbia University, at a time when women, and women of color particularly, were not given the same opportunities and respect that men were given, making it demonstrably more difficult for women to succeed in the field.
Unshaken by the realities of racism and misogyny that were considered the norm, Marie went on the become the first African American woman in the United States to earn a Ph.D. in chemistry after just three years of being the program. 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.”
After earning her doctorate, Dr. Daly decided to dedicate her career to research and education. She was responsible for many fascinating discoveries in science, for instance, she worked on the composition and metabolism of components of the cell nucleus, and uncovered the relationship between diet and the health of the circulatory system while researching microbiology. She then went on to teach at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University, then at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, where she stayed until she retired in 1986.
In 1988 she created a scholarship at Columbia for African American students in the science department, dedicated to her father’s honor. Marie wanted other students affected by gender and racial bias to have support and equity, so she dedicated much of her time throughout her career to support and mentor marginalized students as they pursued their medical and advanced science degrees. Dr. Marie Maynard Daly passed in 2003, and her legacy lives on through the many students and colleagues that she impacted. We are so inspired by the tenacity and determination that Marie embodies, and we can’t think of a better example for each of us, and our nanny charges!
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