Marie Maynard Daly

Marie Maynard Daly

In honor of Black History Month and to celebrate a previous black female scientist who worked at the Rockefeller University, the library would like to introduce Marie Maynard Daly.


Photo credit: Spartanburg Science Center, 2020

Marie Maynard Daly was born in Queens, New York in 1921 and is known as as “America’s First Black Woman Chemist”. Working under Mary L. Caldwell, Daly studied at Columbia University and became the first African American woman to earn a doctorate in Chemistry . With many men fighting in World War II, women in the 1940s were encouraged and incentivized to join formally male-dominated sectors in industrial and academic spaces. Consequently, Daly was granted full funding to pursue her doctorate which helped propel her scientific career.



Photo credit: Science History Institute, 2018


Prior to this, however, Daly’s family struggled to enter the realm of higher education. Daly’s father had been studying chemistry at Cornell University but was forced to drop out due to a lack of money. Still, Daly’s father and mother promoted a strong love of books— especially books about science.  While the financial difficulties persisted so, too, did Daly’s love of science and the field of chemistry. While living at home, she attended Queens College. After graduating with honors in 1942, she began working for Queens College as a part-time laboratory assistant and while simultaneously pursuing a master’s degree in chemistry at New York University. You can learn more about her academic endeavors here.




Photo credit: The Rockefeller University, n.d.

After receiving her doctorate, Daly provided critical strides into the research of health conditions and bodily chemicals. She “made important contributions in four areas of research: the chemistry of histones, protein synthesis, the relationships between cholesterol and hypertension, and creatine’s uptake by muscle cells”. In 1948, after acquiring her own source of funding, Daly received the opportunity to serve in an apprenticeship with Dr. Alfred Ezra Mirsky. For seven years, the two researched the composition of the cell nucleus and the construction of proteins within cells in the body. More about her groundbreaking research is available from here and here.

In 1988, after retiring, Daly, in honor of her father, established a scholarship fund at Queens College for African American students studying science. Daly passed away in New York City in 2003. Her work is considered foundational to the understanding of cells, DNA, and the human body.



The Markus Library established a special collection focused on Racial and Social Justice to aid in the growth and development in eradicating racism and transforming our community into a more open and diverse space. Please stop by the library and pick up a book from our Racial and Social Justice Collection!


This article is written by Alisa Jackson and also published on RockeEDU‘s the Incubator Blog.

Alisa Jackson has worked with the Rockefeller University library since 2002. She has a Bachelor of Sciences from Touro College in New York City. Working in 2020 to expand resources and public awareness regarding issues of inequality in the United States, Alisa Jackson helped to create a library LibGuide showcasing texts which cover historical biases against race, disability, and gender expression in the scientific field.

She was born and raised in Harlem in New York City. She has two children, a daughter and son who have graduated from Monroe College and Georgetown University, respectively. She also has one teenage granddaughter who is thrilled to compete in her second year of basketball in middle school. In her spare time, she loves watching True Crime Documentaries.









By |2022-03-01T19:34:48+00:00February 11th, 2022|Categories: History of Science, Library, Library Blog, Library News|Tags: |Comments Off on Marie Maynard Daly

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