African-American Pioneers in Science

Edward Alexander Bouchet (1852 - 1918)

Edward Alexander Bouchet Photo

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons



New Haven, Connecticut


B.A., Yale College
Ph.D. Physics, Yale University

  • Edward Alexander Bouchet
  • First African-American to earn a Ph.D. from an American University (Yale, 1876)
  • First African-American to earn a Ph.D. in physics (1876)
  • First African-American elected to Phi Beta Kappa.

Physicist Edward Bouchet was born on September 15, 1852 in New Haven, Connecticut. He was the youngest child of freed slave William Bouchet and wife Susan. The family had migrated from Charleston, South Carolina. Bouchet was the first African-American to earn a Ph.D. from an american university and the sixth american of any race to earn a Ph.D. in physics. He entered Yale College in 1870, and became the first black to graduate from Yale (in 1874). He ranked sixth of 124 in his graduating class, earned summa cum laude honors, and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He returned to Yale in the fall of 1874 and earned his Ph.D. in physics in 1876. Due to discrimination and societal barriers, Dr. Bouchet was unable to conduct research or obtain a university teaching position. He spent the bulk of his career as an administrator and teaching chemistry and physics at various high schools across the country.