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March 7, 2008
File updated March 10, 2008

Obituary

John Daly Dies At 74

Renowned chemist forged new paths in natural products research

Susan J. Ainsworth

National Institutes of Health scientist emeritus John W. Daly, 74, died from complications of pancreatic cancer on March 5 in Rockville, Md.

John Daly NIH
NATURE LOVER Throughout his long NIH career, Daly (shown) had research interests in natural products that extended beyond frogs.

Throughout his almost 50-year career at NIH, Daly "expanded the boundaries of chemistry and changed the course of research in pharmacology," Griffin P. Rodgers, director of NIH's National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), said in a statement. "John was an international leader in chemical and pharmacological research, especially in the fields of drug metabolism, biologically active natural products, and adenosine receptors," he added.

Born and raised in Portland, Ore., Daly received a bachelor's degree in biochemistry in 1954 and a master's degree in organic chemistry in 1955, both from Oregon State College. He earned his Ph.D. in organic chemistry from Stanford University in 1958. That same year, he accepted a two-year postdoctoral appointment in NIH???s Laboratory of Chemistry (in what is now NIDDK).

In 1960, Daly joined the NIH staff. From 1969 to 1978, he was chief of the pharmacodynamics section in the Laboratory of Chemistry.??In 1978, Daly was appointed chief of the newly created Laboratory of Bioorganic Chemistry.??He retired from NIH in 2003 but continued his research as a scientist emeritus in the Laboratory of Chemistry.

Throughout his career, "he established Amphibia as arsenals of alkaloid defenses, characterized the chemical profiles of countless frogs, discovered toxic birds, and documented new classes of compounds and novel compound structures," says Paul Weldon, a Smithsonian research associate at the National Zoological Park???s Conservation & Research Center, Front Royal, Va.

"John Daly is legendary and irreplaceable," Weldon adds. "He was a chemist who understood the layers of biology, from the field of ecology to ligand receptor pharmacodynamics."

In 1997, Daly was elected to the National Academy of Sciences. He was an emeritus member of ACS, having joined 52 years ago.

In addition to being a "dedicated researcher," Daly "instilled his intellectual curiosity and love of science in the numerous young investigators he mentored, many of whom reached their own levels of prominence," Rodgers says.??"He was an asset to NIH and will surely be missed."

He is survived by??his life partner, Kathleen McKnight and her two children, Stephanie and Eugene; his daughters, Kathryn Daly and Shannon Ostrander; his sister, Hildred Powers; and four grandchildren.

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