Marie Maynard Daly was a pioneer in the study of the effects of cholesterol and sugar on the heart and the first black woman to earn a Ph.D. in chemistry in the United States. She was born in 1921, at a time when minority women often were denied educational and employment opportunities, but she didn't allow prejudice to stop her pursuit of the sciences. By 1942, she had earned a bachelor's degree in chemistry with honors from Queens College in New York. She went on to complete a master's degree, also in chemistry, just one year later.
It was while earning her doctoral degree from Columbia University that Daly's research really began to gel. She discovered how internally produced compounds help digestion and spent much of her career as a professor researching cell nuclei. Importantly, she discovered the link between high cholesterol and clogged arteries, which helped advance the study of heart disease. She also studied the effects of sugar on arteries, and cigarette smoking on lung tissue. Daly established a scholarship fund for black students at Queens College in 1988. She died in 2003 [sources: African-American Pioneers in Science, Chemical Heritage Foundation].