African-American Women Chemists

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In 1947, Dr. Marie Maynard Daly conducted a study of the products formed by the action of pancreatic amylase on corn starch. Screenshot by Decoded Past.

In 1947, Dr. Marie Maynard Daly, mentioned in Dr. Brown’s book, conducted a study of the products formed by the action of pancreatic amylase on corn starch. Screenshot by Decoded Past.

Jeannette Brown’s African American Women Chemists gives the impression that science, like love, knows no color.

This book pays an overdue homage to those who came before Dr. Brown, a scientist who broke the color-barrier in organic chemistry.

Dr. Jeanette Brown, the author, also achieved a considerable measure of success in her own research on combating tuberculosis, in addition to other pharmaceutical advancements.

Jeannette Brown and Her Peers

Brown, now an acclaimed historian as well as scientist, describes historical scientists and their discoveries without being too clinical or losing herself too far into sentimentality when detailing their hardships.

Unfortunately, African American Women Chemists makes it painfully clear that there remains an absence of African American women chemists in general.

The book’s profiled scientists would stand out in any crowd of intellectuals, and many would have been Nobel material if politics did not get in the way. In spite of the professional barriers and dearth of African American women who choose to specialize in chemistry, Brown demonstrates that the 20th century held many firsts for African American women chemists.

Outstanding Scientist and Mentor

Among the gifted scientists profiled in Dr. Brown’s book, Marie Maynard Daly stands out. Daly was the first African American women to earn a Ph.D. in Chemistry, doing so in 1948 from Columbia University with Dr. Mary L. Caldwell.

Like many of her more fortunate colleagues, Dr. Daly showed an uncanny gift for science as a child and she loved to read as well. According to Brown, Daly’s father and mother were a constant source of encouragement and inspiration. While as a college student, Ms. Daly struggled due to external influences; her story remains an inspiration for all who have doubts while studying the sciences.

As a mature scientist, Dr. Daly’s research programs show a deep compassion for her fellow human beings. As a tenured instructor, she gave her voice and experience to mentor many minority students. Among her many achievements was the elucidation of a connection between cholesterol and heart disease, as well as smoking and heart disease. After a long, productive career, Dr. Daly retired in 1986, and passed away in 2003.

Well-Researched History of Black Women in Chemistry

As Dr. Brown states, African American women chemists are part of a hard-won, long-standing tradition—but the collective history of Black women in the field of chemistry remained scattered across many references prior to Brown’s book. She does us a grand service by listing what she has found (in painstaking detail) in a final chapter.

Brown’s attention to detail allows anyone who would wish to follow in her footsteps to take an easier path for subsequent research on this important subject.

Encouragement for Future Scientists

Jeannette Brown’s well-written, thoroughly researched African American Women Chemists provides insight into personal and professional discoveries sure to encourage budding scientists – or even just those who appreciate the benefits of those discoveries.

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© Copyright 2014 John Jaksich, All rights Reserved. Written For: Decoded Past

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