First African-American to Receive a PhD from an American University

Originally posted on PhD Balance social media platforms on 02/18/2020.


Dr Edward Bouchet (1852 - 1918)

Picture of Dr Edward Bouchet on a light blue background.

Dr Edward Bouchet was the first African American to receive a PhD from an American university.


His father was a freed slave and his mother was a housewife.


After earning his undergraduate degree at Yale, he finished his doctorate in physics, also at Yale, in just two years, focusing on refractive indices.


Bouchet then went on to chair the science program at the Institute for Colored Youth in Philadelphia.


Near the end of the 1800s, however, as a result of societal debate over whether Black individuals should receive a more academic or vocational education, the science program was discontinued in favor of more industrial subjects.


Bouchet then taught at several other schools and gave science lectures to the public.