Edward Bouchet

Edward Bouchet

Edward Alexander Bouchet (15 September 185228 October 1918) was an African American physicist who is most notable for having been the first African American to earn a Ph.D. from an American university. He graduated from Yale University in 1874 as the first black person to graduate from Yale. He completed his dissertation in Yale's Ph.D. program in 1876.

Early life

Edward Bouchet was born in New Haven, Connecticut to parents William and Susan Cooley Bouchet. At that time there were only three schools in New Haven open to black children. Bouchet was enrolled in the Artisan Street Colored School with only one teacher (who nurtured Bouchet's academic abilities). He attended the New Haven High School from 1866-1868 and then Hopkins School from 1868-1870 where he graduated first in his class.

Professional life

Unlike most Ph.D.s of his time, Bouchet was unable to find a university teaching position after college, probably due to racial discrimination. Bouchet moved to Philadelphia in 1876 and took a position at the Institute for Colored Youth (ICY). He taught physics and chemistry at the ICY for 26 years. He resigned in 1902 at the height of W.E.B. DuBois' controversy over industrial vs. collegiate education.

Bouchet spent the next 14 years holding a variety of different jobs around the country. Illness finally forced him to retire in 1916 and he moved back to New Haven. He died there, in his childhood home, at age 66. He had remained childless and unmarried.


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