Edward Alexander Bouchet was an African American physicist and scholar, and the first African-American to acquire a Ph.D. from an American institution. Bouchet received several accolades after his death including induction to the Phi Beta Kappa Society. The following are facts about his life.
7. He Was Born in New Haven, Connecticut
Edward Bouchet was born in New Haven, Connecticut on 15 September 1852. His parents Susan and William were both of African descent. He joined one of the three schools in New Haven that admitted black students. His teacher natured his academic abilities until he joined New Haven High School in 1866.
6. He Was the First African American to Earn a Ph.D. from a US School
Bouchet began his senior education at New Haven High School in 1866. He later joined the Hopkins Grammar School where he studied history, mathematics, Greek, and Latin. He graduated top of his class and was admitted to Yale University. Very few African-Americans had managed to complete bachelor degrees at the time. After graduating in 1874, he decided to extend his studies for two years by completing a Ph.D. In 1876, Bouchet graduated with a doctorate in physics and became the first African American to graduate with the honors from an American institution.
5. He Did His Dissertation in Physics
Bouchet submitted a dissertation on “Measuring Refractive Indices” during his doctoral studies. He studied with the best scientists, engineers, and professors in the country but none believed that a person of African descent could present such a dissertation. By completing his studies, Bouchet became one of the six people in the United States with doctorates in physics.
4. He Was Denied Teaching Positions on Account of His Race
Edward Bouchet's African descent proved to be his undoing. Even after completing bachelors and doctorate degrees he still could not secure employment because of his African ancestry. Other professors in the field of physics avoided any association with him, and he resorted to teaching in African American schools.
3. He Eventually Taught at Colleges and High Schools
Bouchet failed to land a college professor job because of his African descent. His applications to work in white institutions were all rejected, and he is resorted to working at Philadelphia Institute for Colored Youth in Philadelphia. He spent 26 years teaching physics and chemistry until his resignation in 1902. He served as the academics director at St. Paul's Normal and Industrial School Virginia from 1905 to 1908 and as a senior teacher and principal at Lincoln high school in Ohio between 1900 and 1913. He later joining the faculty of Bishop College in Texas.
2. There Have Been Awards and Societies Named for Him
The achievements of Edward A. Bouchet were noted decades after he died. The American Physical Society established the Edward A. Bouchet Award that is conferred to Individuals who make outstanding contributions to physics. In 1988, The Edward Bouchet Abdus Salam Institute was founded, and in 2005, Howard University and Yale established the Edward A. Bouchet Graduate Honor Society.
1. He Died in His Childhood Home
Edward Alexander Bouchet died on October 28, 1918, aged 66 in his childhood home in New Haven, Connecticut, after a short illness. He was buried in his father’s land without a tombstone. In 1998, Yale University built a monument in his honor.
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