CHT - Timeline

Time-line of Professor Charles Henry Turner: America’s First African American
Psychologist and First African-American Comparative Psychologist

1. 1867 Born February 3 in Cincinnati, Ohio (two years after the end of the Civil War). His father was Thomas Turner and his mother was Addie Campbell from Alberta, Canada and Lexington, Kentucky, respectively. Thomas was employed as a church custodian and Addie as a practical nurse.

2. 1886 Enrolled in the University of Cincinnati, previously attended Woodard High School in Cincinnati (graduated as valedictorian of his high school class).

3. 1887 Married Ms. Leontine Troy.

4. 1891 Earned B.S. Degree from the University of Cincinnati (Biology).

5. 1891 Published “Morphology of the avian brain”*. This is Turner’s first publication and was completed as partial fulfillment of his B.S. degree. The paper was reviewed by Donaldson (1891, American Journal of Psychology, 4, 302-303) who commented on “a laborious study of the avian brain…tests the taxonomic value of the brain of birds, with suggestive results.”

6. 1892 Earned M.S. Degree from the University of Cincinnati (Biology). Spent time volunteering at the Cincinnati Observatory (note: We were unable to confirm the year. He may have volunteered during his undergraduate years).

7. 1892 Published “Psychological notes upon the gallery spider”*. The appearance of this paper makes Professor Turner the first African American Psychologist and the first African American Comparative Psychologist.

8. 1892 Published “A few characteristics of the avian brain”*. This article appeared in the journal Science (19, 16-17), establishing Professor Turner as the first African American to publish in this journal.

9. 1892-1894 Daughter Louisa Mae Turner born (her profession: Teacher). We have been unable to locate specific information about her day and year of birth or the day and year she died. Louisa may have been born after Henry Turner and before Darwin Turner.

10. 1892 Published “Notes upon Cladocera, Copedoda, Ostracoda, and Rotifera of Cincinnati.”* In this article he describes several new species of invertebrates.

11. 1892 Henry Owen Turner was born August 23, 1892 (died October, 8 1956 – 64 years old). He was a pharmacist in Chicago (Owen was Darwin’s partner in their drugstore. Owen handled the daily business activities and Darwin handled the pharmaceutical aspects of the business).

12. 1892-1893 Assistant instructor in the Biological Laboratory at the University of Cincinnati. There is some suggestion that he was the only African American instructor at the University of Cincinnati during that time.

13. 1893 Unsuccessfully applied for a position at Tuskegee Institute.

14. 1893-1894 Became a Ph. D. student “in absentia” at Denison University (newly established but short-lived program established by his mentor, C. L. Herrick. “In absentia” graduate programs were not unique at that time).

15. 1894 Darwin Romanes Turner was born June 23, 1894 (died July, 27 1983 – 89 years old). He was a pharmacist in Chicago, having earned his degree in pharmacy at the University of Chicago. He owned a pharmacy in Chicago.

16. 1893-1905 Professor of Biology (and chair of the science department) at Clark University (also referred to as Clark College), Atlanta, Georgia (Note: The available biographical material has discrepancies on how long he was at Clark University. Occasionally it is suggested that he left in 1895/1896 and taught in the public school systems of Evansville, Indiana and Cincinnati, Ohio. One book chapter (Turner, 1902) lists the institutional affiliation as Clark University. Clark University was founded in 1869 by the Freedmen’s Aid Society of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

17. 1895 Mrs. Leontine Troy Turner died in Atlanta. There is a suggestion that she suffered from a mental illness several months before her death (Ross, 1997).

18. 1895 Co-authored with his mentor C. L. Herrick a 500-page treatise on the Entomostraca of Minnesota. Professor Turner is specifically credited with writing the section on the Ostracoda. His affiliation is listed as “Professor of Natural Science” at Clark University, Atlanta, Georgia. It is interesting to note that in the “letter of Transmittal” the Minnesota State Zoologist – Henry F. Nachtrier – writes “These gentlemen have given their services to the survey without charge, having asked for and received barely enough to cover their expenses.”

19. 1897 Published “Reason for Teaching Biology in Negro Schools” (Southwestern Christian Advocate, 32, 2). This was the first of a series of papers discussing the importance of education for both Caucasian and African American children. He advocates both vocational training and training in arts, languages, and the sciences.

20. 1905-1906 High School Principal, College Hill High School, Cleveland, Tennessee

21. 1906 Published “A preliminary note on ant behavior.”* J. B. Watson (1907, Psychological Bulletin, 4, 300-301) reviews the paper and comments on “the authors rather ingenious method” (p. 300).

22. 1906-1907 Spent the summer of 1906 and the 1906/1907 academic year at the University of Chicago.

23. 1907 Earned Ph.D. University of Chicago (magna cum laude – zoology). First African American to earn a Ph.D. at the University of Chicago.

24. 1907 Delegate to the Seventh International Zoological Congress and secretary of the animal behavior section.

25. 1907 Denied an appointment at the University of Chicago (some sources suggest that he turned the appointment down).

26. 1907-1908 Professor of Biology and Chemistry, Haynes Normal and Industrial Institute, Augusta, Georgia, (there is some suggestion that he also taught psychology). Marries Ms. Lillian Porter.

27. 1908-1922 High school teacher, Sumner High School, St. Louis, Missouri (starting salary $1,080/year).

28. 1910 Elected to membership in the Academy of Sciences of St. Louis (some sources place the date of his election as 1912).

29. 1910 Published “Experiments on color-vision of the honey bee”* (Biological Bulletin, 19, 257-279). Provides conclusive evidence that honey bees can see color.

30. 1910 In his studies of the homing of ants, V. Cornetz (1910, “Trajets de fourmis et retours au nid”. Mém. De l’Inst. Gén. Psych., 2, 1-167) names the exploratory circling movements of ants on a return to the nest “tournoiement de Turner” (Turner Circling) in honor of its discoverer – Professor Turner.

31. 1911 Published “Experiments on the pattern vision of the honey bee.”* Provides conclusive evidence that honey bees can see patterns.

32. 1912 Honored by The Crises magazine as one of the “Men of the Month.”

33. 1914 Published “Auditory Powers of the catocala moths: An experimental field study” with Ernst Schwarz (Biological Bulletin, 27, 275-293). Provides conclusive evidence that insects can hear air-borne sounds.

34. 1914 Published “An experimental study of the auditory powers of the giant silkworm moths, Saturniidae” (Biological Bulletin, 27, 325-332). Describes what we consider to be the first classical conditioning experiment with insects.

35. 1922 Retired from Sumner High School and moved to Chicago to live with his son Darwin Romanes Turner because of illness.

36. 1923 Died February 14 in Chicago, Illinois. He was 55 years and 11 days old.

37. 1924 Last publication: A new field method of investigating the hydrotropisms of fresh-water invertebrates (Biological Bulletin, 46, 35-54)*.

38. 1925 Charles Henry Turner Open Air School for Crippled Children founded. It was the first school of its type for African American children in St. Louis and was located at 4235 Kennerly. Many of the students suffered from tuberculoses and the prescribed treatment at the time was fresh air (i.e., “Open Air School”). Interestingly, the school had no stairs; ramps connected the various floors and entryways. This school is now known as the Charles Henry Turner Middle Branch (part of the Charles Henry Turner MEGA Magnet Middle School complex) and is located in the same building.

39. 1929 T. C. Schneirla (1929) comments extensively on the value of Professor Turner’s work with ants (Learning and orientation in ants. Comparative Psychology Monographs, 6 (no. 4).

40. 1948 Mrs. Lillian Porter Turner died in Chicago, Illinois (January 13). Mrs. Turner was Professor Turner’s second wife.

41. 1954 Charles Henry Turner Middle Branch is created in St. Louis. It was formerly known as the Charles Henry Turner Open Air School for Crippled Children. The school educates students in 6th through 8th grades and is multi-racial. This school is now known as Charles Henry Turner Middle School (2615 North Billups) and is part of the Charles Henry Turner MEGA Magnet Middle School complex.

42. 1956 Henry Owen Turner died (October, 8) at age 64.

43. 1962 Turner-Tanner Hall (now known as Tanner-Turner) renovated to house the Clark College (Atlanta) Biology and Art departments. Clark University records suggest the original building was erected in the 1940s.

44. 1983 Darwin Romanes Turner died (July, 27), at the age of 89.

45. 1997 Publication of Bug watching with Charles Henry Turner by M. E. Ross (1997, Minneapolis, Carolrhoda Books). This book is written for children and is part activity book and part biography.

46. 1999 Charles Henry Turner MEGA Magnet Middle School is created. The MEGA stands for Multimedia Electronic Graphic Arts and the school educates students in 6th–8th grades. The school is located in the building that at one time housed Harriet Beecher Stowe College (2615 North Billups). Upon graduation, students can enter Sumner High School (located in the same neighborhood as the Turner school complex). The Charles Henry Turner Middle Branch is now an extension of the Charles Henry Turner MEGA Magnet Middle School.

47. 2003 Publication of the Selected Papers and Biography of Charles Henry Turner (1867-1923), Pioneer of Comparative Animal Behavior Studies by the Edwin Mellen Press, Lewiston, New York.

Citation identified by an asterisk (*) are reprinted in: Selected Papers and Biography of Charles Henry Turner (1867-1923), Pioneer of Comparative Animal Behavior Studies

The material in this site is copyright 2003 by Dr. Charles I. Abramson and cannot be used without
the express permission of Dr. Abramson, Ms. Terri Small-Turner, and Charles Henry Turner II.

This website was designed and created by Caleb Lack, Ph.D., BaMF.