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Inspiring StoriesMeet Edward Alexander Bouchet: The First African-American To Obtain A PhD

Meet Edward Alexander Bouchet: The First African-American To Obtain A PhD

Edward Alexander Bouchet was born on September 15, 1852, in New Haven, Connecticut. Edward attended a segregated elementary school and finished secondary education at Hopkins Grammar School in 1870. Edward would serve as his high school class valedictorian. In 1870 Bouchet became the first to break the “colour line” at Yale University.

The scholar would have endured courses in German, French, Greek, and Latin. Although, his main interests were in the sciences and mathematics. Bouchet would take classes in mechanics, physics, and astronomy earned in his year a GPA of 3.36. Bouchet specifically excelled in math and summa cum laude honours in all of his undergraduate studies upon graduating in 1874. Bouchet was the first African-American elected into the academic honour society Phi Beta Kappa, however, his induction was delayed because Yale’s chapter was inactive for several years. He was finally inducted into the society in 1884.

Bouchet entered graduate school at Yale in 1874 and gained his doctorate in physics in just two years. Bouchet was the first African-American to earn a PhD from an institution in the U.S., but he wasn’t the first Black American to earn this terminal degree. Patrick Francis Healy previously earned his PhD in 1865 from the University of Louvain.

Bouchet completed his doctoral dissertation on “Measuring Refractive Indices” and became one of only six people in the country with doctorates in physics. However, despite his academic accomplishments, racism was a huge roadblock to him having a career as a research scientist. Bouchet spent most of his career teaching and administrating segregated African-American schools. After being sick for a while, Edward Alexander Bouchet passed away on October 28, 1918, in New Haven, Connecticut.

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