Black Americans in the Sciences

  • James M. Jay


Although Negroes were “invited” to America in 1619, it was not until 1837 that the first black American received the M.D. degree; this honor went to James McCune Smith, who earned said degree at the University of Glasgow (Scotland). The first black to earn the M.D. degree on home soil was David J. Peck, and his degree was conferred in 1847 by Rush Medical College. When Harvard University conferred the D.D.S. degree upon George F. Grand in 1870, he became the first black American dentist. Six years later, Edward A. Bouchet became the first black American to receive the Ph.D. in the sciences (physics). It should be noted that while Bouchet’s doctorate was awarded only 10 years after the first doctorate by an American university, only one other black had earned a doctorate degree in the sciences by 1900. And now, 100 years after Boucher’s early quest of the science doctorate, there are well under 2,000 American-born blacks who hold this degree in the natural and physical sciences, and this number represents approximately 1% of all science doctorates in the United States pool. Except for some apparently significant improvements in the area of engineering, the dramatic increases in the numbers that are necessary to bring about a more respectable representation of blacks at this level appear not to be occurring.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1977

Authors and Affiliations

  • James M. Jay
    • 1
  1. 1.Wayne State UniversityDetroitUSA

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