Black History Month: Black Women Pioneers in STEM
Updated: May 27
In celebration of Black History Month, we honor the leaders who paved the pathway to civil rights and set humanity’s sights on striving for equity. It is also vital that we make explicit how critical people of color are to the biotech ecosystem and STEM(M) - Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, and Medical fields as a whole. Today, we celebrate Mary Elliott Hill and Dr. Marie Maynard Daly, both Black female STEM pioneers who changed the field for the betterment of future generations.
Dr. Marie Maynard Daly
Dr. Marie Daly was the first African American woman to receive a doctorate in chemistry in the United States. After she earned her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Queens College in 1942, Daly completed her master’s degree at New York University in only one year. At Columbia University, she studied how bodily compounds contribute to digestion and earned her doctoral degree in just three years. Her postdoctoral research at the Rockefeller Institute focused on the composition of the cell’s nucleus and how proteins are metabolized. She taught at Howard University, Columbia University and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. While devoting her time to research, Daly helped develop programs aimed at increasing minority enrollment in medical school and graduate programs. In 1988, she created a scholarship fund at Queens College for African American science graduates.
Mary Elliott Hill
Organic and Analytical Chemist
Mary Elliott Hill was an organic and analytical chemist, born in North Carolina. She attended the Virginia State College for Negroes, now Virginia State University (VSU) from 1925-1929. She taught at VSU and took graduate courses at the University of Pennsylvania. She was one of the earliest African American women to acquire her master’s degree in chemistry (1941). Her work specified in ultraviolet light and using that to develop analytic methodology. While an associate professor and acting head of the chemistry department at Kentucky State University, she collaborated with her husband Carl McClellan Hill in developing the ketene synthesis, which aided in the development in plastics.