February 1, 2019
The National Society of Black Physicists honors Dr. Edward Bouchet. Dr. Bouchet was the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in physics from any American University.
Edward Alexander Bouchet (September 15, 1852 – October 28, 1918) was an African American physicist and educator and was the first African-American to earn a Ph.D. from any American university, completing his dissertation in physics at Yale in 1876.
Bouchet was unable to find a university teaching position after college, probably because of racial discrimination. Bouchet moved to Philadelphia in 1876 and took a position at the Philadelphia's Institute for Colored Youth (now Cheyney University of Pennsylvania), where he taught physics and chemistry for the next 26 years. He resigned in 1902 at the height of the W. E. B. Du Bois-Booker T. Washington controversy over the need for an industrial vs. collegiate education for blacks.
Bouchet spent the next 14 years holding a variety of jobs around the country. Between 1905 and 1908, Bouchet was director of academics at St. Paul's Normal and Industrial School in Lawrenceville, Virginia (presently, St. Paul's College). He was then principal and teacher at Lincoln High School in Gallipolis, Ohio from 1908 to 1913. He joined the faculty of Bishop College in Marshall, Texas in 1913. Illness finally forced him to retire in 1916 and he moved back to New Haven. He died there, in his childhood home, in 1918, at age of 66. He had never married and had no children.