Alum Marie Maynard Daly Honored by American Chemical Society

Daly, GSAS’ 47, is the first Black woman known to have earned a PhD in chemistry in the United States.

May 25, 2023

Marie Maynard Daly is believed to be the first Black woman to earn a PhD in chemistry in the United States.

Now, the American Chemical Society has recognized her important contributions to the field by dedicating a National Historic Chemical Landmark to Daly. The landmark was recognized at a designation ceremony held at Columbia earlier this month.

Daly, who was born in Queens, took a research position at Rockefeller University after graduating in 1947. In 1955, she returned to Columbia, where she researched aging and high blood pressure and taught biochemistry. She moved to the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in 1960, where she gained tenure and stayed for many years. Throughout her career, her research focused on deepening scientists’ understanding of how factors like diet and smoking affected heart attack risk and lung health.

“This designation is particularly meaningful at a time when society as a whole is dealing with systemic racism and inequality,” American Chemical Society President-Elect Mary K. Carroll said in a statement announcing the landmark designation, adding that the society “addresses these issues head on, in its stated goals, as well as its core values. The society embraces and promotes diversity, not only to create a more inclusive environment for the practice of chemistry, but also to provide fair and just outcomes for all to achieve their full potential. And no one exemplifies this more than Dr. Daly.”

“As we continue to work to better support people from underrepresented groups in science and academia, we are so pleased to join the American Chemical Society in recognizing this trailblazing Black, female scientist and her contributions to our university," said Robert D. Mawhinney, dean of natural sciences in Columbia's Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

“It is an understatement to say Marie was ahead of her time, both in her biochemical research and in the very bright light she shines on our unfinished work on equity inclusion and diversity,” said Ann McDermott, chair of Columbia’s Chemistry Department. “The department is exceedingly proud of her accomplishments. We thank the volunteers from the ACS and all of the participant speakers for an inspiring day."

This is Columbia’s second American Chemical Society landmark designation. The first was awarded to chemistry research conducted at Havemeyer Hall.

Read an American Chemical Society’s profile of Daly and her pioneering work.