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Marie Daly (April 16th, 1921 – October 28th, 2003)

Black History Month 2023 provides an opportunity to highlight and celebrate the achievements of the many Black women who have had their contributions ignored, ideas appropriated, and voices silenced over the centuries. This month we will feature three Black women whose work established a foundation for research happening in DPAG today.  The first focusses on Marie Daly whose work has inspired Dr Becky Carlyle (Carlyle Research Group).

The breadth of Marie Daly’s contribution to science was truly inspirational. Her work laid the foundation for our understanding of the central dogma of molecular biology and the importance of sub-cellular compartmentalization, which is at the root of the work we are doing to understand brain proteome complexity and how it changes in Alzheimer’s Disease. - Dr Becky Carlyle, Carlyle Group

Black and white image of Marie Daly as a young woman with dark hair wearing a light sweater and a necklace.


Marie Daly (April 16th, 1921 – October 28th, 2003) was the first African-American woman to receive a Ph.D. in chemistry in the USA, and the first African-American to receive a Ph.D. from Columbia University.  Marie’s work, in which she has been described as the Mother of Genetics and Heart Disease, spans multiple modern day disciplines.  A lifelong New Yorker, she began her post-doctoral career at Rockefeller University, where she developed nuclear fractionation methods enabling her to work out which nucleic acid bases are incorporated into DNA and allowed her to identify histones.  She was directly credited for this work by James Watson when he accepted his Nobel for defining the structure of DNA.  Her most famous work came when she moved to Columbia University and discovered the link between dietary cholesterol and atherosclerosis.  Marie became a tenured associate professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and worked there until her retirement in 1986, where in addition to her wide-ranging and impactful academic contributions, she worked tirelessly to increase enrolment of minority students to both medical and graduate school.