Edward Alexander Bouchet was born in New Haven, Connecticut on September 15, 1852, just twelve years before slavery of African-Americans ended in 1864. He graduated valedictorian of his class from Hopkins Grammar School in June 1870 and entered Yale College the following September. In June of 1874, he graduated from Yale College (B. A.) and he was elected subsequently a member of Yale's chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa Honorary Society. Two years later, in June of 1876, he received his Ph. D. degree in Physics from Yale College. His dissertation title was "Measuring Refractive Indices."
Dr. Bouchet's first job was at the Institute for Colored Youth in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (later to become Cheyenne State Teachers college) where he taught Physics and Chemistry for 26 years. During the next six years (after leaving the Institute for Colored Youth), Dr. Bouchet held several positions as teacher and manager until he was appointed principal and teacher at Lincoln High School in Gallipolis, Ohio. He held this, his final position, for five years (1908-1913) until he returned home to New haven in ill health at the age of 61. He died in New Haven on October 28, 1918.
Edward A. Bouchet was the first African-American and first known person of African descent to earn a Ph. D. degree in physics. He was the first African-American physicist to become a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Honorary Society. As such, he was also a pioneer, being among the first 20 Ph. D.s in Physics (of any race) in the United States and only the sixth Ph. D. in Physics from Yale.