by Wei Li

Marie M. Daly

Everyone knows that having high cholesterol in your blood is not a good sign — it can lead to high blood pressure and clogged arteries (also known as atherosclerosis), resulting in heart diseases or stroke. However, what we now consider common knowledge, required years of research to discover. An important contributor to what we know about cholesterol and high blood pressure is Marie M. Daly, the first Black American woman in the United States to earn a Ph.D. in Chemistry.

Marie Daly was born in Queens, New York City, in 1921. She grew up reading a lot about scientists and their achievements, fostering a love of science from a young age. Her father had wanted to become a chemist, but had to quit college because of a lack of funds. This motivated Daly to continue her father’s dream of becoming a scientist and major in chemistry in Queens College. After graduating college and obtaining a Master’s degree in New York University, she enrolled in a Ph.D. program at Columbia University, where she obtained a Ph.D. in Chemistry in just three years.

After her graduate education, Daly worked on a lot of different important research areas, and one of them was understanding the causes of atherosclerosis. In her study published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, she conducted multiple rats studies where she looked at their cholesterol levels, their blood pressure, as well as how damaged or clogged their arteries were. She found a strong correlation between high blood pressure and having high cholesterol levels in the blood, which was a groundbreaking discovery at that time. This discovery served as a foundation for future research into the causes of atherosclerosis and other high blood pressure-related diseases.

In addition to her work in cholesterol and atherosclerosis, Daly also worked on characterizing histones, a type of protein that bundles our DNA into tiny packs of coils, forming the chromosomes in our cells. Histones are very important for gene expression — depending on how tightly they pack your DNA, they determine whether certain parts of your DNA are able to be turned on or “expressed”. However, back in the 1950s, nobody really knew what histones were or what they were made of. In a study published in the Journal of General Physiology, Daly painstakingly isolated histones from various animals to determine their properties and composition. Her work contributed to our basic understanding of histones and, ultimately, the organization of our DNA.

Marie definitely accomplished a lot as a scientist, but beyond her scientific achievements, she had also made improvements in her community. In honor of her father, who could not finish college, she started a scholarship fund at her alma mater, Queens College, to assist minority students majoring in physical sciences. Her legacy in both scientific and financial contributions will definitely live on forever.

Wei Li is a third-year Ph.D. student in the Chemistry and Chemical Biology program at Harvard University.

Cover image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

This biography is part of our “Picture a Scientist” initiative. To learn more about the amazing men and women who paved the way for modern scientific discovery, check out our homepage.

3 thoughts on “Marie M. Daly — From a Love of Science to a Legacy of Discoveries

  1. As concerning the Word of life, Luke 10 section 25-28 says: On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
    Luke 18 section 18-25 says: A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good–except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.'” “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said. When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth. Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
    Matthew 5 section 43-48 says: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
    In Old Testament, the Jewish people and their ancestors were given the Law to observe. First, What Adam and Eve should observe was that they could not eat the fruits from the tree of wisdom. Then, their son Cain was told that he should not kill. As sins became increased, the laws were also added more. Up to the generation of Moses, the Law in Old Testament was given to Israelites. We know that the Law is good and the Law is used to punish people who commit sins, but people cannot obey the Law because the sinful spirits are in people. Even that we know stealing and giving false testimony are sinful, but greedy and pride spirits in us drive us to do sinful things. So as Old Testament prophesied we need to get rid of our sinful nature from our spirits.
    Jeremiah 31 section 31-33 says: “The time is coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.
    Ezekiel 36 section 24-27 says: “‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
    The prophecies are fulfilled when Jesus begins to teach love. The two greatest commandments are ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” Love is above the Law and if people have love they are free from the law of sin and death. People who are full of love will not think about stealing or giving false testimony but are merciful and they feed hungry people or give thirsty people something to drink or invite strangers in or clothe people who need clothes. The Law is for people who commit sins. Nobody will say that he will get reward because he does not steal before. But love is the grace we get. And with love we will get eternal life.
    Romans 13 section 8-10 says: Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
    Luke 17 section 20-21 says: Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say,’ Here it is,’ or ‘ There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.”
    John 4 section 23-24 says: Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *