Charles Henry Turner (zoologist)

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Charles Henry Turner
Charles Henry Turner.jpg
Charles Henry Turner aged about 35
Born February 3, 1867
Cincinnati, Ohio
Died February 14, 1923 (1923-02-15) (aged 56)
Nationality United States
Alma mater University of Cincinnati
Scientific career
Fields Zoology

Charles Henry Turner (February 3, 1867 – February 14, 1923) was an American research biologist, educator, zoologist, and comparative psychologist born in Cincinnati, Ohio.

In 1892, Turner became the first African American to receive a graduate degree at the University of Cincinnati.

In 1907, he became the first African American to earn a PhD from the University of Chicago.

Despite his doctorate, Turner chose to teach at high schools. Most sources attribute this career move to a desire to devote more time to the observation of insects, but Charles I. Abramson, in his 2003 article on Turner for American Bee Journal, claims that Turner was unable, rather than unwilling, to get an appointment at the University of Chicago, and that the Tuskegee Institute could not afford his salary. Turner had a preference for working with young African American students.

Turner published 49 papers on invertebrates, including "Habits of Mound-Building Ants", "Experiments on the Color Vision of the Honeybee", "Hunting Habits of an American Sand Wasp", and "Psychological Notes on the Gallery Spider". In his research, Turner became the first person to prove that insects can hear and can distinguish pitch. In addition, he first discovered that cockroaches can learn by trial and error and that honeybees can see color.

Besides his scientific work, Turner was active in the struggle to obtain social and educational services for African Americans in St. Louis, Missouri. After his death, a school for disabled African American children was named in his honor.

He died on February 14, 1923 from acute myocarditis in Chicago. His place of interment is Lincoln Cemetery in Chicago.


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