Marie Maynard Daly
February 14 is Valentine’s Day: a day associated with tending the heart. Today, we’ll look at a woman who has studied many factors impacting the human heart: Marie Maynard Daly.
As a child, Daly would spend weekends in her grandparents’ library reading scientific texts; Paul de Kruif’s The Microbe Hunters influenced Daly’s decision to become a scientist. Daly’s interest in chemistry came in part from her father, an immigrant from the West Indies who had attended Cornell University to become a chemist. He was unable to complete his education due to a lack of funds.
Daly attended Queens College after high school and in 1947 earned her PhD in Chemistry from Columbia University, making her the first African American woman to receive a doctorate in the field.
After completing her education, Daly worked as a physical science instructor at Howard University. After being awarded an American Cancer Society grant to support her postdoctoral research, she joined the Rockefeller Institute, where she initially studied the chemicals of the cell nucleus.
Daly began working at Columbia University in 1955 with Dr. Quentin Deming, where her focus shifted to the heart. She studied the effects that aging, hypertension, and atherosclerosis had on the metabolism of arterial wall. She continued this at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University. Their work identified the relationship between high cholesterol and clogged arteries, leading to a better understanding of the causes of heart attacks.
Daly also served as an investigator for the American Heart Association and did research on the correlation between smoking and lung disease. She served on the Board of Governors of the New York Academy of Sciences for two years.
Daly also started a Queens College scholarship fund in her father’s honor to assist minority students majoring in chemistry or physics and was an advocate for increasing minorities in medical schools. Not one to neglect any aspect of her work on the heart, Daly married Vincent Clark in 1961 and they remained married until her death in 2003.
Written by Nicole Hutchison