10 Black Scientists You Should Know

Charles H. Turner
Charles H. Turner, Ph.D. conducted most of his work while teaching at high schools and published about two papers per year. Project Gutenberg

Behavioral scientist Charles H. Turner is best known for his discovery that insects can hear. He was born in 1867 to working-class parents in Cincinnati, Ohio, and became the first African-American to earn a doctorate in zoology from the University of Chicago.

Turner's research centered on animal behavior, and he developed a series of techniques to study and measure how insects learn. For example, Turner was the first to discover insects could hear and that they were capable of changing their behavior based on previous experiences. Notably, his research showed that honeybees could recognize colors and patterns. (A former student wrote about one experiment: "The bees appeared at the table at all three meals. Then Dr. Turner put jam only at breakfast daily. They still came to each meal but found no jam at noon and night. Soon they stopped coming. This shows they have some idea of time" [source: Abramson]).

Much of his work was done without the benefit of laboratory space or research assistants, since Turner taught at high schools. Yet his findings dramatically changed the way scientists understood invertebrate species. Turner died in 1923, but many of his methods are still in use today [source: Biography].