If you are looking to encourage more young girls of color to give STEM programs a chance, you should share with them the story of Marie M. Daly (1921-2003). She was the first Black woman to earn a P.h.D. in chemistry here in the States. She was also someone who, from a young age, had family members who encouraged her to read about scientists and read to her from science books. Not only did she teach, but Marie did some groundbreaking research and did what she could to help other women of color be able to afford the opportunity to study chemistry. Check out five things you should know about Marie M. Daly.
Her Father’s Inability to Become a Chemist Inspired Her
While she loved reading books about science, a big influence on Marie’s interest in chemistry was her father, Ivan. He moved from the British West Indies, studied at Cornell University and hoped to become a chemist. However, a lack of funds derailed his plans. He got a job as a postal clerk to take care of his family instead. As for Marie, she picked up her father’s interest in chemistry and worked hard to make his dream of becoming a chemist, which became her own, come true.
She Became the First Black Woman to Receive a P.h.D. in Chemistry by Working Hard and Fast
After graduating magna cum laude from Queens College with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, Marie received a graduate fellowship from her alma mater that helped her afford to attend New York University for her master’s degree. She eventually graduated a year later in 1943, obtaining her master’s in just a year. After that, she started her studies at Columbia University in their doctoral program. She worked under the tutelage of Dr. Mary L. Caldwell. Caldwell had a doctorate in nutrition and helped Marie to see how chemicals in the body aided in the digestion of food. Marie graduated with her P.h.D. in chemistry in 1947 after completing a thesis called “A Study of the Products Formed By the Action of Pancreatic Amylase on Corn Starch.” She unknowingly became the first Black woman to get a P.h.D. in chemistry.
She Did Some Groundbreaking Research
While working at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University in 1955, Marie studied how the arterial wall of the heart is affected by hypertension, aging and atherosclerosis (the build-up of fats and cholesterol). She also was an investigator for the American Heart Association, tracking how hypertension impacts our circulatory system. And when she was teaching at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University, she did in-depth studies on arteries and the impact of smoking cigarettes on the lungs (which we now know affects them greatly).
She Helped People Understand How Foods and Poor Diet Impact the Heart
One of Marie’s biggest research moments came in her work trying to understand the causes of heart attacks. She did this while working with Dr. Quentin B. Deming at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Their work ended up revealing, in a new way, how our diets impact heart health and the circulatory system.
She Ensured That Students of Color Could Afford to Study Science
No one knew the struggle to study chemistry like Marie. With that being said, she realized how important it is to help other students of color find their way into medical schools and graduate science programs. Keeping her father in mind and the sacrifices he made, Marie would go on to start a scholarship at Queens College in honor of him. The fund was created to help minority students who are majoring in chemistry and physics afford to further their studies.
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