In Memoriam

In memoriam: Mary Ann Williams

ASBMB Today Staff
Feb. 6, 2023

Mary Ann Williams, a nutritionist who taught at the University of California, Berkeley and a member of the American Society for Biochemistry for more than 30 years, died Sept. 20, 2022 at the Knolls of Oxford in in Oxford, Ohio. She was 97.

Mary Ann Williams

Williams was born May 18, 1925, in Albany, New York, to Boyd and Anna (nee Wolfe) Williams. She received a bachelor’s degree in nutrition from Iowa State University and then went on to pursue advanced degrees in an era when few women enrolled in postgraduate programs, earning a master’s in biochemistry from Cornell University and a Ph.D. in nutrition from the University of California, Berkeley.

Williams served on the faculty at the University of California, Berkeley for 36 years, starting in 1955. The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation awarded her a fellowship in 1963. She officially retired in 1991 but continued to teach part-time into the late 1990s.

In a 1996 interview with California Agriculture, a newsletter, Williams reflected on the early days at her university’s College of Agriculture, of which she was a part. The poultry department was paying her graduate stipend, so she had to learn some “practical poultrying,” she said.

Mary Ann Williams was named a Guggenheim fellow in 1963.

Later, she was close to early nutrient research made possible by radioisotopes and other postwar advances. “The major emphases were human protein and mineral requirements, especially zinc, iron and calcium,” Williams told the newsletter. “The results of these studies provided information that has been basic to establishing the currently used recommended daily allowances made by the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Research Council.”

Williams also voiced concerns about water and land management in her adopted state of California in the interview. “I visit Germany frequently so I know that Germany has the size of California and twice the population,” she said. “Central Europe has been crowded for a long time, so they know how to keep cities more livable and people-friendly, policies that reduce the need to sprawl into farmland or other open land.”

Williams, who had no known survivors, spent her last 22 years in Oxford, Ohio. Outside her academic interests, she was a fan of opera, other classical music, and tennis.

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