Treasures from Special Collections and Archives: Marie Maynard Daly Yearbook Photo

by Caitlin Colban-Waldron, Adjunct Archivist

In celebration of Women’s History Month, we share one of the most-requested items from QC’s Special Collections and Archives department: the 1942 yearbook photo of graduating senior Marie Daly. In the photo, her hair is set carefully and a string of pearls rests around her neck. She looks determined, gazing out of the frame. Around her on the page are a sea of white faces; at the time, few Black students were enrolled at the college. 

Marie Maynard Daly Yearbook
Marie Maynard Daly Yearbook

In 1942’s yearbook (only the second ever graduating class at QC!), each senior portrait included an accompanying paragraph describing every student. Some were cheeky, some were resolute, some were optimistic. Marie Daly’s paragraph, though, was certain:

“A Queens College Scholar and one of those elite persons on the Dean’s list, MARIE DALY has an enviable record. She is a Chemistry major and a member of the Chemical Society. In her chosen career as a laboratory technician, she bears the mark of one likely to succeed.”

Marie Maynard Daly was a biochemist and the first African-American woman to earn a doctorate in chemistry in the United States. One of three children, she was born in Queens on April 6, 1921. She started her groundbreaking educational career at Queens College as an undergraduate from 1938-1942, then earned a graduate degree in chemistry from New York University in 1944, and, finally, completed her PhD in chemistry in 1947 at Columbia University.

Daly’s professional life took her to many places: she was an instructor at Howard University, an American Cancer Society fellow at the Rockefeller Institute, a researcher and professor at Columbia and then Yeshiva University (where she retired from in 1986), and served at places like the American Heart Association and Health Research Council of New York. Her work primarily focused on the chemistry of a cell’s nucleus and how our health can be impacted at that tiny, cellular level. She did important research on the effects of cigarette smoke on the workings of lungs, sugar on the health of arteries, and discovered how cholesterol contributes to heart attacks and oxygen blockages in the circulatory system.

In 1988, she started a scholarship for minority students at Queens College who want to study science at Queens College and named it after her parents, Ivan and Helen, who instilled a love of learning in her from a young age–her father had once taken chemistry courses at Cornell University and her mother was a passionate reader. You can still apply for that scholarship today!

Marie Maynard Daly Portrait
Marie Maynard Daly Portrait

Marie Maynard Daly’s story continues to inspire researchers, students, and science lovers. SCA has received requests for more information about her from everyone from high school students to the American Chemical Society to both highlight her contributions to biochemistry and celebrates her status as a trailblazer for women and people of color alike. This senior portrait, taken at the very beginning of her exceptional career, speaks to the women who may be finding their way in the science field at Queens College even now. We’re proud to have her as an alumnus.

View Maynard’s 1942 yearbook and other digitized materials from our collections.


Spangenburg, R., Moser, K., & Otfinoski, S. (Eds.). (2012). Daly, Marie Maynard (1921–2003). In African Americans in Science, Math, and Invention (pp. 54–55). Facts on File; Gale eBooks.
Wayne, T. K. (Ed.). (2011). Daly, Marie Maynard. In American Women of Science since 1900 (Vol. 1, pp. 327–328). ABC-CLIO; Gale eBooks.