Marie Maynard Daly (19212003)
While most of the first African American chemists were southerners, Marie Maynard Daly was from the North; she was born in New York City and lived there her whole life. Her father had studied chemistry in college but had to quit school because he didn’t have enough money to continue. Daly got interested in science by reading books like the classic Microbe Hunters when she was a girl. Later she earned her bachelor’s degree in chemistry at Queens College, her master’s at New York University, and her Ph.D. in 1947 at Columbia University, all in her home city. This made Daly the first African American woman to receive a Ph.D. in chemistry.
Daly was a biochemist, that is, she studied the chemistry that goes on in living things. Like the scientists she read about in Microbe Hunters, Daly spent her career hunting for new ways to treat diseases until she retired in 1986. Remembering her father, who couldn’t afford to stay in school, she established a scholarship fund in 1988 for African American students studying chemistry or physics at her old alma mater, Queens College.