The First African American to Earn a PhD from an American University.
Born in 1852 in New Haven, Connecticut, Edward Alexander Bouchet graduated valedictorian from Hopkins Grammar School in 1870. That same year, he began his studies at Yale University. He completed his bachelor’s degree in 1874. Bouchet made history two years later, becoming the first African American to earn a doctorate degree in the United States. After earning his doctorate in physics, he taught at the School for Colored Youth in Philadelphia for more than 25 years. He died in 1918.
That fall, Bouchet entered Yale College (later renamed Yale University) in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree—a remarkable endeavor for the time, as there were few opportunities for African Americans seeking higher education. After graduating from Yale with his bachelor’s in 1874, Bouchet stayed on for two more years and completed his Ph.D. in physics—making him the first African American to earn a doctorate degree in the United States—in 1876. With this accomplishment, Bouchet joined a select group of academics; only a handful of other people had earned that same degree in the country’s history by this time.