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Charles Henry Turner
Charles Henry Turner Charles Henry Turner


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Charles Turner was one of the very first African-American researchers in animal behavior. He published over 50 papers in the areas of physiology, invertebrate ecology and morphology, but is most famous for his work in animal behavior. Among other things, Turner was the first to demonstrate that insects could hear (see references 1914). Turner also did considerable research on trial-and-error learning by insects. He developed complex apparati (see below) to demonstrate that ants use light in addition to scent trails to get back to their nest and to show that surface-feeding caterpillars use trial-and-error learning rather than tropisms in locomotion. Charles Turner was the first African-American to publish in the Journal of Animal Behavior, and probably the first to publish in Science (1892, although this is difficult to document). Turner was an elected member of the St. Louis Academy of Science (1911) and a delegate at the Seventh International Zoological Congess (1907). Turner felt that the key to stopping racism was education, but that education was not enough. In 1902, he stated: 'The white trash and the vagrant Negro form a wedge separating the New Southerner and the New Negro so completely that they cannot know each other.' Charles Turner was able to beat the odds. He was able to make major contributions in the field of animal behavior despite the fact that he had to deal with racism, isolation and limited resources. By naming an undergraduate poster session at the annual meetings after him, the Animal Behavior Society emphasizes its goal to increase the diversity of its membership by encouraging researchers of all ages, levels, and ethnic groups to participate in its annual meetings. Through this and other efforts, we also hope that Turner will take his rightful place in history. Although he held a doctorate from the University of Chicago, zoologist Charles Henry Turner chose to teach at high schools so he could devote more time to the observation of insects. His research had lasting impact. Turner published several articles in scientific journals, 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.


 
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