Meet an amazing woman in STEAM via our Lifeology Historic STEAM Heroes course. This month, meet Marie Maynard Daly.

STEAM Heroes - Florence Nightingale - nurses day

People in STEAM (science, tech, engineering, arts, and math) are blazing trails—both people from history and in the world today. We want more people to know about these people and their excellent but often under-promoted work, including children (and adults!) who might dream of careers in STEAM fields!

Each month, we feature a new person from history in our Historic STEAM Heroes Lifeology card deck. These people often faced adversity and overcame obstacles to become the STEAM heroes that they are today! 

Is there someone from history that you would like to nominate? Help us curate examples of historic steam heroes from around the world—not just Western culture. You can nominate here

Keep reading to learn about the woman featured for the month of September!

Florence Nightingale

Marie Maynard Daly is featured in our Historic STEAM Heroes course. 

Marie Maynard Daly was a biochemist who made great contributions to physiology and medicine. On World Heart Day (September 29), we celebrate Daly’s pioneering discoveries that impacted heart health as we know it today. Keep reading to learn more about this incredible STEAM Hero.

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Marie Maynard Daly, Ph.D.

Daly grew up in New York, USA where she excelled in school, especially in science classes. She also loved readings books about science. Her teachers and her father encouraged her to continue her education in science beyond grade school. 

Attending Queens College for her bachelor’s degree in chemistry, Daly once again excelled. She then attended New York University and Columbia University for her master’s degree and doctorate degree, respectively. She completed her Ph.D. in chemistry in only 3 years!

Not only was Daly the first Black person to obtain a Ph.D. from Columbia University, she was also the first Black woman in America to receive a Ph.D. in chemistry. But her triumphs didn’t stop there.

Much of what we now know about heart disease and its causes, we have Daly to thank for! In a groundbreaking study of the time, Daly demonstrated that there was a correlation between high blood pressure levels and high cholesterol levels. This discovery served as a foundation for what we now know about the causes of the buildup of fats, cholesterol and other substances in artery walls (known as atherosclerosis). Daly continued to focus on how health and nutrition impacted the arteries, investigating the effects of hypertension and aging on the circulatory system. 

It wasn’t all heart health for Daly. She also played a part in genomics. Specifically, Daly studied histones, which are a type of protein found in our chromosomes (where your genetic information is contained). Histones bind to DNA, giving chromosomes their shape. Histones also play a part in determining if a gene will be expressed or not.  But not all of this was known at the time! 

In a study, Daly isolated histones from various animals and studied them to help give a basic understanding of what histones even were. Now, we know much more about how our DNA is organized, including how histones are a huge part of that. And we have Daly to thank! 

Even James Watson and Francis Crick, who won the Nobel Prize for their work on DNA, cited one of Daly’s works as having an influence on their research! Daly was a true STEAM Hero.

Lastly, Daly also started a scholarship fund at Queens College for students majoring in physical sciences. Daly started the fund in honor of her father who did not finish his college degree at Cornell before running out of funding.