Deaf Culture Timeline



During Hebrew times, being Deaf was simply regarded as an act of God, and there was no shame attached to being Deaf or even giving birth to a Deaf child. Quite the opposite as there were certain Jewish laws, also known as the Torah, that were in place to protect the Deaf from being wrongfully accused by the superstitious or malcontent. Any accusations that were laid upon them were rendered invalid. The Deaf, then described as Deaf-mutes or Deaf and dumb, were put in the same class as minors and the mentally incompetent, and therefore, in need of protection.

It was a widely held belief that the Deaf could not communicate or be taught to do so. They were deemed irresponsible, incapable of reasoning and lacking in the ability to assert or maintain their independence. Thus, they were not permitted to marry, own property, or fully participate in temple rituals. In the interest of maintaining peace, however, there have been instances when the rabbis made some exceptions, such as in the matter of marriage. If the Deaf were able to answer three questions with a head or shake, to indicate they 

understood the vows, they were permitted to marry. This is the first recorded instance of "signed" gestures being accepted as a legitimate form of communication.

It should be noted that those who had become Deaf later in life, and not through birth, and those who could talk were afforded more rights and were not perceived as mentally deficient. Speech was so perceived as some semblance of intelligence.


In Ancient Greece, Sparta was primarily focused on military training and excellence, and embraced the idea of creating a master race. Only those who were among the smartest and strongest were permitted to procreate, and when the children were born, they became the property of the state, not the parents. It was required by law that each child be inspected by the elders after birth. If the child appeared healthy, it was permitted to live. If it appeared sickly or was deformed in any way, the elders would order the father to dispose of it.


The birth of a disabled child was regarded as a great misfortune, a mark of the gods' displeasure. An abnormal birth was a sure sign that a catastrophe was just around the corner. In early Roman society, the fathers were granted absolute power to kill, mutilate or sell his children for any reason, so it was not uncommon for the disabled to be killed at birth.


Herodotus, an ancient Greek historian, tells of Croesus, the King of Lydia, who was the richest man in the world, bent on global domination. He had two sons. The younger was Deaf and mute and meant very little to Croesus. He had showered his attention instead upon Atys, the elder, who have proved to be brave and skilled, and was the next in line for the throne. Croesus had a dream that Atys would be killed by an iron weapon. The next day he had removed all of the weapons from the male quarters, but it was all for naught. Atys' friend accidentally impaled him with a spear while trying to kill a boar. It is interesting to note that there are two versions of what happened when Croesus has failed to conquer Persia and was about to die at the hands of his captors. The first, told by Herodotus, tells of the Deaf son rushing towards a Persian solder and orders the man to not kill his father. Legend has that he was able to speak for the rest of his life. Xenophon, another Greek historian, tells a different and perhaps more realistic version. When he was taken as a prisoner, it was said that he told his captor that he had two sons, but they were no good to him since one was dead and the other was mute. He had no heirs.

427-347 B.C. PLATO

We first learn about the use of sign language in Plato's writings, where he talks about the language of Deaf Athenians. It appears that Deaf people and sign language were very much accepted by Athenian society. They still believed, however, that children who were born could not be educated. In Plato's Cratylus from Dialogues, Hermogenes and Cratylus have an argument about whether the naming of objects was arbitrary or instinctive (natural). "Suppose that I call a man a horse or a horse a man?" When they ask Socrates to settle this dispute, Socrates reminds them that we are born with innate knowledge and with that comes the knowledge of names. He said that names belong to the objects if they appropriately represent the said objects.  He brings up the example of sign language as a communication system used by Deaf people, and asked if we were not able to speak or hear, wouldn't we use signs with our hands to communicate? He stated as humans we imitate the nature of an object. If we were to describe our horse, then we should use our body.

384-322 B.C. ARISTOTLE

Unlike Plato, Aristotle did not believe in the theory of innate knowledge and reason. He felt that knowledge was gained through senses, and of all the senses, he believed that hearing was the most vital to man's mental development. He also believed that hearing was the main organ of instruction, and that deafness was organically tied to speechlessness. While Aristotle did not directly address the education of Deaf children, per se, it is easy to understand why so many professionals over the centuries have interpreted Aristotle's writings to mean the Deaf that could not be taught since they lacked to faculties to learn, and by perpetuating this belief, the Deaf were kept in ignorance for over two thousand years.


Musings on Aristotle's work resurfaces in the roman poet, Lucretius' only known work, a philosophical epic poem, De rerum natura, or "On the Nature of the Universe," in which he voices the opinion, "To Instruct the Deaf, no art can ever reach, no care to improve them, and no wisdom teach."


Quintus Pedius was a noted painter during the 1st century AD and the grandson of a Roman consul by the same name. Quintus was the first Deaf person to be mentioned by name, and his education was the first recorded education of a Deaf child, in book 35, chapter 4 of Pliny the Elder's Naturalis Historia or "Natural History." Quintus must have showed promise as a young boy because after Massala, Quintus' paternal great uncle had instructed that the boy should be taught in the art of painting, and with permission from Emperor Augustus Caesar, the boy received tutoring. Little is known about Quintus, other than he turned out to be very talented in the arts and that he had died young. It should be noted that it was not common for the Deaf children to be educated in Rome. Only those that were born to prominent parents were afforded more opportunities than those in the lower ranks of the Roman caste system. The grandfather's involvement is also the first recorded instance of one advocating for better educational opportunities for a Deaf child. In a society, where infanticide was commonly practiced and even encouraged, the role of family members as staunch advocates was vital for the Deaf child's continued




Galen, a Roman physician, was among the first to determine that the origin of speech was in the brain. Despite this, Galen still espoused Aristotle's ideology that speech was the messenger of the soul, the path to greater intellect, and was irrevocably linked to the ability to hear. He reasoned that if he cured mutism by cutting on a ligament of the tongue, he would cure deafness as well. This practice, otherwise known as the binding of the tongue, persisted well into the 20th century.


The early Christian founders of monasteries had imposed, without exception, the vow of silence upon their disciples. This prohibition, no doubt, had inspired the monks to invent signs as way to circumvent these vows. The earliest records and drawings were those written by the Spanish monks in Cistercian monasteries as early as 328 A.D. and these signs are still in use today. The number of signs used in these ancient monasteries varied from order to order, and were vastly different from those used by the Deaf. However, their wide use and acceptance of sign language would become renowned and would later become a valuable resource for the early educators of the Deaf.


Theological literature has been instrumental in contributing to our standing of society attitudes towards the Deaf and the barriers that had faced during the ancient times. Considering the overall societal prevalence of the negative attitudes towards the Deaf, the Hebrews may have been an exception, in that their views and laws tended to be more benevolent and more open-minded about the instruction of the Deaf. Early Christianity also pondered on the possibility of educating the Deaf. Saint Jerome, who was a Roman Christian priest and historian best known for his Latin translation of the bible, had considered the use of gestures and sign language as an acceptable means of communication in order to receive the word of God and thereby be saved.


Saint Jerome's contemporary, Augustine of Hippo, otherwise known as Saint Augustine, was one of the early fathers of the church. His writings are considered largely influential in the development of western Christianity. The views of the early Christians were starkly different than that of the early Hebrews. Many had felt that the Deaf could not be taught and that they were incapable of exercising the Christian faith. This, I suspect, is largely due to the literal interpretation of apostle Paul's writing, "So then faith come by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17). On this topic, Saint Augustine had admitted that deafness does, indeed, "hinders faith itself." Christian leaders and theologians, who had since studied the work of Paul and Saint Augustine, most likely had taken their writings out of context and determined that salvation was not an option for the Deaf. Such belief would later spiral out of control during the middle ages, when the Deaf were thought be possessed by demons, since they could not be saved. In reality, Saint Augustine's point of view was more in line with Saint Jerome. In his writings, De quantitate Animae and De Magistro, Saint Augustine had discussed gestures and signs at length and saw them as viable means of obtaining knowledge and salvation. As a bishop of the church, he, no doubt, had witnessed firsthand the development of sign languages in several monasteries throughout region and saw the Deaf could, indeed, be taught.


After the fall of Roman, Justinian the Great, a Christian emperor of the Roman Byzantine Empire and ruler of the Catholic Church, sought to restore Rome to its former greatness. During his reign, he had desired that the existing Roman laws be put into a clear system of codified laws. These laws, in addition those added by Justinian, became what is now known as the Justinian code and are the basis for the establishment of the early modern legal systems in the Byzantine Empire, which had been adopted throughout Europe and America. The Justinian law devised five classes of deafness, distinguishing deafness from speechlessness (formerly known as "dumb" but which we will refer to as "mute"). The classes that were recognized prior to the Justinian era and were later codified were: 1) the Deaf and mute from birth, 2) the Deaf and mute by accident, 3) the Deaf from birth who were not mute, 4)  the Deaf by accident, and 5) the mute who were not Deaf. The main benefit of the new Justinian code was that not all of Deaf were treated equally. Those who were able to speak or write (or both), or became Deaf after their education, were granted more rights than those who were Deaf and mute from birth. That is, they were able to enter into contracts, testify in court, own and/or free slaves, and own and/or inherit property. The illiterate Deaf and mute, on the other hand, were barred from exercising any of the aforementioned rights. When codifying these laws, the Roman jurists had assumed the illiterate Deaf and mute could not be taught and had put them in the same category as the imbeciles. There was no inclusion of a saving clause in the event those Deaf and mute from birth who did eventually learned how to speak or write. The last ruling was perhaps the most historically destructive, as it had paved the way for a gradual removal of all rights for the Deaf throughout the Dark Ages (500 A.D. -- 1000 A.D.).


During the 540s, the Roman Byzantine Empire plunged into the Dark Ages after it had been struck by one of the most catastrophic plagues in history. The bubonic plague, otherwise known as the Plague of Justinian, had affected all of Europe, Asia, North Africa, and Arabia. During the social and cultural decline, Deaf adults became objects of ridicule, served as court jesters, or even thrown in asylums. Because of their sometimes guttural speech, the Deaf were often thought to be possessed by demons. In order to drive out the demons, many of the Deaf were hanged or stoned to death. It was common for many to believe that deafness was the result of God's displeasure, meted out as a punishment from Gold.


During the Dark Ages, people were dogmatic about religion and yet remained superstitious. They turned to mystical magic, using amulets and charms. They turned to physicians, who in those days, considered deafness a physical ailment that needed to be cured in order to lead a healthy life. They blew trumpets into the ears of a Deaf person or required the patient to conduct hearing exercises. They had experimented with the pouring of various liquids such as vinegar, oil, honey, or garlic juice into the ear. They recorded that they had tried foul smelling liquids such as the bile of rabbits or pigs, goat's urine and/or eel fat mixed with blood. It was recorded that St. Hildegard, a German Benedictine abbess who was born in 1098, had recommended that deafness could be cured by the cutting off a lion's right ear and placing it over the patient's ear just long enough to warm it and to say, "Hear adimacus by the living God and the keen virtue of a lion's hearing.' This process was to be repeated several times for the cure to take effect.


Some turned to the saints. One such story had been documented by one Anglo-Saxon Benedictine monk, who was perhaps the very first historian of the English people. Baeda, known as "the Venerable Bede," wrote about Saint John of Beverly, who was reported to have restored speech to a boy who had been Deaf and mute from birth by making the sign of a cross on his tongue. The boy is said to have been taught how to speak the alphabet, and was able to read and write. In 1037, he was canonized by the pope and became the patron saint of the Deaf.

672 -735 A.D. ST. BEDE

A skilled linguist and translator, St. Bede the Venerable had written many works. In his Ecclesiastical History, he had proposed a system of handshapes for representing the alphabet by flexing the fingers, for the purpose of secret communication among the monks, while preserving their vows of silence. St. Bede is credited for having recorded the earliest known manual alphabet.



Teresa de Cartagena, was a Spanish author and a Franciscan nun, who became Deaf after she had transferred to a Cistercian Monastery in her twenties. A member of a prominent Jewish family who had converted to Christianity, Teresa had most likely entered into the monastery at the encouragement of her family as a political maneuver to appease the distrust of local Christians. Already isolated because of her Jewish and Christian heritage, her deafness had driven her to the edge of the Castilian society. As a means of self- consolation and communication, she wrote Arboleda de los enfermos or "Grove of the Infirm" in which she distinguishes between the physical and spiritual ability to hear. Her desire was to provide comfort as well as advice on how to cope with adversity. As a fierce rebuttal to the male critics who thought that Arboleda could not possibly be written by a woman, she wrote Admiraçión operum Dey or "Wonder at the Works of God". The latter is considered by many scholars today as the first feminist tract ever written by a Spanish woman.


Rudolphus Agricola, a Dutch humanist and educator, is accredited for opening the minds of others to the potential educability of the Deaf and for being one of the early pioneers of Deaf education. During the 1470s, he taught a Deaf child how to communicate orally and in writing, and documented his educational efforts in his work De inventione dialectica or "On Dialectical Invention,"  which was published 43 years after his death. Agricola had explained that with the use of signs or some other visual means, that Deaf people could be taught how to express themselves.


After Agricola's work had been published, it fell into the hands of Gerolamo Cardano, an Italian physician and mathematician. Because his firstborn son was Deaf, he became intrigued on the educability of the Deaf. As a physician, he had primarily focused on the eyes, ears, mouth and brain as part of his practice. He had reasoned that since written words were independent of the sounds of speech, the Deaf could be taught how to read without needing to hear the words. He theorized even further that the Deaf could "hear" by reading and "speak" by writing. Cardano, an early advocate for Deaf education, was the first physician to recognize the ability of the Deaf to reason.



Cosmos Rosselius, a Dominican friar in Italy had written a book, Theasurus artificosae memoria or "Thesaurus of artificial memory," which contains drawings of the signed Latin alphabet. The book was published in 1579, one year after his death. In the thesaurus, he had described no less than three forms of a one-handed manual alphabet. While these hand symbols were used as a means of communication, Rossellius recommend that they ought to be used to enhance memory. In other words, he had instructed his students to use these handshapes as iconic memory aids to help them remember portions of the sacred texts.


Pedro Ponce de Leon, a Benedictine monk, is credited to be the first to have conceived the idea of using a manual alphabet for teaching the Deaf, as well as being the first teacher of the Deaf. He was unlike previous and contemporary tutors of the Deaf, who were assigned to teach a Deaf student a single task. For instance, in the case of Quintus Pedius and Juan Fernández Navarrete, they were taught how to paint. Ponce de Leon, however, faced a different situation. In the case of Francisco and Pedro de Velasco, two Deaf brothers who had come under Ponce de Leon's tutelage in 1545, belonged to one of the most powerful feudal lords in the vicinity. The Spanish law of the time dictated that in order to inherit property, the inheritor must be able to speak and possess the faculty to reason. The brothers not only needed to know how to read and write, but they also had to be knowledgeable in other subjects, such as Latin and Greek, in order to inherit the family estate. The Velasco brothers had developed a close bond with Ponce de Leon. In 1550, Licenciado Lasso, a lawyer from Madrid had met with Ponce de Leon and the Velasco brothers, had become so impressed with the talking Deaf-mutes that he had penned a legal treatise on the rights of Deaf-mutes, which, unfortunately, was not published until the eighteenth century. In regards the Velasco brothers, Franscisco had fallen ill and died in his early twenties and around that time Pedro de Velasco, who was especially devoted to his teacher, petitioned to become a priest. The jurists ruled that mutes who had been taught to speak should not be barred from the priesthood. Pedro de Velasco, quite possibly, became Spain's first priest. Over the years, Ponce de Leon taught some ten to twelve students in all, among them a Deaf sister of Francisco and Pedro de Velasco, Gaspar de Gurrea, a son of the governor of Aragon, and the noble Gasper de Burgos. Ponce de Leon was said to have developed a one-handed manual alphabet that would allow the student to spell out letter by letter any word, and actively used the manual alphabet as part of his instruction. That his group of students had come from cultured and privilege families in an era when sign communication has long been established (i.e., the use of manual alphabet in the Benedictine monasteries) had most likely lead to his success in educating the Deaf. The one-handed alphabet Ponce de Leon had developed is very similar to the manual alphabet currently being used in American Sign Language today. He had trained no successor.


Melchor Yebra, a Franciscan monk, was the first to thoroughly document a method for communicating with the Deaf using a one-handed manual alphabet, which was mostly the one-handed alphabet was used by Ponce de Leon. The one-handed alphabet that Yebra described is remarkably similar to the modern day manual alphabet used by Deaf Americans. None of his original writings had survived, but his work is known through the efforts of another Spaniard, Juan Pablo Bonet, who, in turn, had described the one-handed manual alphabet in his work.


One of the reasons that might have compelled Ponce de Leon to take on the task of educating the Deaf was the example of the educated Deaf of his day. One such person was his contemporary, Juan Fernández Navarrete, a painter for Phillip II, the king of Spain. Like Ponce de Leon, Navarrete, known as El Mudo or the Mute, was born of noble birth. When an illness had left him Deaf at the age of two and half, Navarrete was sent away to live with the monks. At an early age he had expressed his wants by drawing objects with a piece of charcoal. He had received his first instructions in art from Fray Vicente de Santo Domingo of the Order of Saint Jerome and later under Titian, a renowned Italian painter of the Venetian School. In 1568 Phillip II of Spain had summoned Titian to Madrid and under the title of the king's painter and salary, Titian was to paint many of the paintings of the huge monastery-palace of El Escorial. When Titian, who was very old at the time, had died, the task of completing the painting of El Escorial fell to Navarette.


Around the same time Ponce de Leon was teaching the Deaf in Spain, Joachim Pascha, a Lutheran clergyman and chaplain to Prince James II of Brandenburg, Germany, began his own endeavors by teaching his own daughter who had become Deaf when she was six months old. Initially, the father attempted to teach her how to speak. When this failed, he had succeeded by means of pictures, through mimes and gestures, and other means of his own devising.


A German physician published the first book of any kind specifically on deafness, called Discourse on Deafness and Speechlessness. He became the first physician to state unequivocally that hearing and speech were separate functions, and had argued that from his anatomical study of cadavers that the nerves controlling speech and hearing entered the brain in different places and were not connected. More importantly, Alberti wrote that even though they lacked speech, the Deaf people were rational and capable of thought. He had claimed that he had met Deaf people who could understand speech by observing the movements of the lips. Alberti was part of a sudden awakening of interest in deafness.


In 1616, Bonifacio publishes a treatise discussing sign language, "The Art of Signing." He had suggested that the language of gesture, if universally adopted, could be used to break down the language barriers that were raised at Babel.


When Juan Pablo Bonet was the secretary to Constable Bernadino, he had resided under the same roof as Manuel Ramírez de Carrión in the Velasco household who was teaching young Luis, a second or third cousin of the Velasco brothers (see Manuel Ramírez de Carrión). When Ramírez de Carrión had left to teach the grandnephew of Pedro de Velasco in another more prestigious Velasco household, he had left Luis's education incomplete. While Bonet had begun his career in the military, and then served as a secretary, he was also a man of letters and a scholar of the classical languages, and so he stepped in as Luis' tutor, albeit not a good one. In 1620, Juan Pablo Bonet had published The Art of Teaching the Deaf to Speak, wherein he advocated the use of the one-handed manual alphabet and while he stopped short of claiming credit, he goes on to write thst he had gleaned from the Velasco household. It is largely due to the scholarly work of Feijóo (see Benito

Jerónimo Feijóo y Montenegro) that Bonet's book is recognized as fully derivative of Ponce de Leon's work. That aside, because Bonet's had written The Art of Teaching the Deaf to Speak, the education of the Deaf slowly took root throughout Renaissance Europe.


About thirty years after Ponce de Leon's death, Manuel Ramírez de Carrión found success in teaching speech to Deaf children. A school teacher by profession and a teacher of both hearing and Deaf students, Ramírez de Carrión would later be acknowledged as the inventor of speech training for the Deaf. His first student was a second or third cousin of the Deaf Velasco brothers and his second was a grandnephew. Because deafness ran strong in the Velasco line, it was more than likely that the methods of Pedro Ponce de Leon had been passed down from Pedro de Velasco, but no mention has been made of this. Ramírez de Carrión, assuming credit of Ponce de Leon's work, boasted that he could teach hearing people to read and write in two weeks. How he accomplished this, however, was a closely guarded secret. Though his students were told not reveal his methods, it was said he had taught the students to associate certain sounds with letters of the alphabet. In letters written by Kenelm Digby, it was reported that Ramírez de Carrión used unsavory methods for ensuring that the Deaf learned what he had taught. See: 1628--1709, Emmanuel Philibert of Savoy, Prince of Carignan.

1603-1665 KENELM DIGBY

Kenelm Digby, an Englishman, had visited Spain in 1623 and had met a Deaf nobleman, Don Luis de Velasco. Don Luis' skills had so impressed Digby that he wrote that Don Luis was so Deaf that "if a gun were shot off close by his eare he could not heare it," and yet the man could speak distinctly as any man. Don Luis was also said to have understood speech reading so well that he would not lose a word and that he could even recognize an accent by watching a person speak and mimic that accent exactly with his own voice. While Digby's observations were most likely an exaggeration, his claims helped garner attention for the Deaf and their methods of communication.

1614-1684 JOHN BULWER

In 1644, John Bulwer had published the first book on the education of the Deaf in English, which had included Digby's account of the Deaf people in Spain. A physician, Bulwer, had never taught Deaf children but he believed that one sense could take over for the duties of another. His first book, Chirlogia, was a book on fingerspelling and some of the handshapes described in the book are still being used in modern day British Sign language. He mentions a system of fingerspelling that indicates the letter of the alphabet by pointing to certain joints of the finger, which was most likely the first recorded reference to the two-handed alphabet. Where or how he had come by this two-handed alphabet remains unclear. In 1648, Bulwer wrote another book, Philocopus, in which he advocated for the establishment of an academy for the Deaf people of England.


William Holder, a priest, was an influential member of the Royal Society. In 1669, Holder published Elements of Speech: an Essay of Enquiry into the Natural Production of LETTERS: with an APPENDIX Concerning Persons Deaf and Dumb. Holder was primarily concerned with teaching Deaf people to speak and to lipread. In 1659, Admiral Popham and Lady Wharton hired Dr. Holder to teach their Deaf son. It should be noted that while a number of studies and theories were bandied about by the members of the Royal Society, they did not necessarily represent their total comprehension of the psychology of deafness. In fact most of the members who were interested in deafness were dilettantes who had little or no insight on the complexities of deafness. Holder, however, was one of the few members of the Royal Society who had engaged in the teaching of the Deaf. He had taught sounds, then combined them into syllables, and finally whole words, while using the two-handed manual alphabet that was most likely an expansion of the fingerspelling system mentioned by John Bulwer (i.e, pointing to certain joints to indicate certain letters of the alphabet).

1616-1703 JOHN WALLIS

John Walls, a professor of geometry at Oxford and one of the founding members of the Royal Society, was the most influential British authority on deafness during the seventeenth and eighteenth century. Wallis had agreed to teach a 25 year old Deaf man, Daniel Whalley, the son of the mayor of Northampton. After a year of instruction, Whalley could understand the Bible and read orally from it. While teaching Whalley, Wallis had read books on teaching the Deaf by the Spaniard Bonet and he had taught reading, writing, and speaking through the use of gestures, signs, as well as the two-handed alphabet. Wallis had brought Whalley before the Royal Society, and many of the members had been awed by Whalley's presentation. Lady Wharton hearing of Wallis' success had withdrawn her son from Holder, after three years of tutelage, and placed him under Wallis, thus setting off a long standing feud. Holder, who was less successful, had accused Wallis of assuming the glory of having taught Lady Wharton's son to speak. This particular feud most likely caused future educators of Britain to become more guarded about sharing their secrets of instructing the Deaf.


Franciscus Mercurious, the Baron van Hemont, a chemist and occultist, provided a lesser impact than most in the field of Deaf education. His contribution is more curious than valuable, and perhaps a good example of the type of theories and speculations that were floating around at that time in regards to the Deaf. Van Helmont, for example, believed in a metaphysical origin of language and had theorized that the Adamic language, which he had equated with Hebrew, was the natural language of man. He had demonstrated how the shape and character of each letter of the alphabet in Hebrew conformed to the position and movement of the organs of speech (the tongue, palate, uvula and glottis) when making a sound. In his efforts to prove that the Hebrew language was superior to all other languages, van Helmont had worked out this theory to support the work of Johann Konrad Amman, one of the earliest writers on the instruction of the Deaf. Like Amman, van Helmont

focused primarily on teaching the Deaf how to speak and on the mechanics of lip-reading. His theory was published in 1667 as a Latin treatise called Alphabeti veri naturalis hebraici brevissima delineation, or the shorter English title, "Alphabet of Nature."


In 1680, George Dalgarno, a Scottish intellectual and schoolmaster wrote Didascalocophus, or "The Deaf and Dumb Man's Tutor," which discussed how to teach language to a Deaf person and the two-handed alphabet for the Deaf and mute. "The Deaf and Dumb Man's Tutor" was the first detailed explanation of the two-handed alphabet ever published, the same alphabet that was referred to by John Bulwer in his book, Chirlogia. This alphabet is also the antecedent of the modern day manual alphabet British Sign Language, currently be used in in England and Australia. He felt that Deaf people are equal "in the faculties of apprehension, and those that have all their senses" and that they were quite capable of being taught. Like any of the Deaf educators of his time, teaching English to the Deaf was his primary concern and felt that fingerspelling served a device for that purpose. A pioneer in early intervention in Deaf education, Dalgarno was the first to suggest

that if parents were to fingerspell to their Deaf child from the cradle on up, that the child's mind would be as nimble as those of his hearing peers. He advocated that language acquisition for the Deaf ought to take place during the early years. He had also stated writing as a natural method for teaching the Deaf and that it was another means of communication and instruction of a Deaf child.


Born in Savoy, now part of France, Emmanuel Philibert was born Deaf and was the son and heir of Thomas Francis, Prince of Savoy. His father, a member of the royal family of the dynasty that had ruled Savoy, Peidmont, Sicily, Sardinia, and Italy, and had headed the Spanish armies for a period of 5 years. When Emmauel was born, he was concerned about his deafness and engaged the service of Manuel Ramírez de Carrión, who had promised the prince's family that he could make Emmanuel learn how to speak, provided that he was given much of or complete authority over the young boy. It was reported that Ramírez de Carrión's method of instruction left a lot to be desired, and that his success was largely due to his inhumane treatment of the prince, which had not come to light, until years later when the prince was able to tell his family. The tutor had used torture to ensure that the student learned what was required of him. He used hunger, often withholding food until the student performed accordingly, and often punished the prince by either placing him in a dark room for long periods of time or beating on the soles of his feet. The prince applied himself and learned several languages, some science and history. He went onto become a good politician and was consulted about the affairs of the state. For more on Ramírez de Carrión, see: 1579-1652, Manuel Ramírez de Carrión.


After Johann Konrad Amman, a physician who had settled in Amsterdam, had quickly turned his attention to the education of the Deaf after he had become a physician. Amman believed that speech was of divine origin and he had formulated his own version of the long cherished belief that speech was a reflection of the soul, a "living emanation of that spirit that God breathed into man." A staunch supporter of oralism, he was credited to be highly influential in the pathology of speech. In 1692, Amman had published a work called Surdus Loquens or "The Speaking Deaf," and later in 1700, he expanded on his earlier work in Surdus loquens sive dissertatio de loquela or "Dissertation of Speech." Like many of oralists of his time, he was very secretive about his method of instruction. That is, his works discussed much on his philosophy and little on the mechanics of how he taught the Deaf to speak. Like many of the oralists of his time, he had cloaked his methodology in secrecy. His primary mode of therapy involved the use of imitation and touch. He had his students watch his lips and larynx, and to feel the throat vibrations, as he spoke and then had them imitate these movements.

1669--1747 ETIENNE DE FAY

Etienne de Fey, Deaf from birth, was sent to the Abbey of Amiens in France when he was 5 years old. He lived in the Abbey all of his life, where the monks had schooled him the subjects of math, history, drawing, and architecture. He remained at the abbey for the rest of his life, and never learned to speak. He was a procurator and librarian and architect for the abbey, and was the teacher of Deaf children in the only school for the Deaf in France at the time. As a teacher, de Fay had used the "natural language" of the Deaf, manual language, to instruct his pupils. Little is known as to where he had acquired this language or if he had invented it himself. In 1728, he received two Deaf charges, the Meusnier brothers, both of whom were named Francois, and had arrived on a king's pension. The brothers had come from a prominent family with strong social and political ties to Emmanuel Philipert of Savoy, the Prince of Carignan. While the brothers had become proficient in a

variety of subjects, and were academically prepared to assume positions in court, but like de Fay, they never learned how to speak. Out the walls of the monastery, society was not kind to the Meusnier brothers. By law, the non-speaking Deaf could not attain legal adulthood. The brothers were not permitted to serve as Court Ushers, as their father had done before them, nor could they inherit their father's property, which had been rather sizable. The court balked at the suggestion that the brothers could run their father's estate and instead had ruled that they were to be perpetual minors in constant need of a court-appointed tutor and the court had turned their fortune over to that said tutor. De Fay's career as an educator for the Deaf was came to abrupt halt, after the parents had removed their son, Azy d'Etavigny, from the Abbey and turned him over the care of Jacob Rodrigue Péreire, who had ensured them that he could teach Azy to speak, and thus guarantee their son a chance to become a legal heir, see:  Jacob (Jean) Rodrigue Péreire.


A Spanish Benedictine monk at the San Julián de Samos monastery, Feijóo was a professor philosophy and theology. Because Ponce de Leon's method of instruction was never published, many had come to credit Juan Pablo Bonet with establishing Deaf education in Spain, who had by default took over the teaching duties of teaching one of Manuel Ramírez de Carrión's former students. Bonet does not mention Ponce de Leon or Ramírez de Carrión in his work and his fame surpasses their efforts. A hundred years later, Feijóo takes an interest in Ponce de Leon's work, and began corresponding with the monastery where Ponce de Leon had once resided, with requests for materials. Feijóo soon recognized the true genius behind Bonet's work. In an era wherein educators in England, France and Germany were vying for the title of being the first educator for the Deaf, Feijóo steps forward as an open critic and stated that their efforts would have been in vain, had it not

been for Ponce de Leon. In Theatro crítico universal (Universal Critical Theater, 1730) and later in his Cartas eruditas (Erudite Letters, 1759) Feijóo had claimed that Bonet was a plagiarist and revealed the true genius and originality of Ponce de León's work with the Deaf-mutes and then laid out in careful chronology how the method of instruction was passed down from Ponce de León to Ramírez de Carrión and then to Bonet and not from Bonet.

1698--1774 HENRY BAKER

Henry Baker, a naturalist and fellow of the Royal Society, read about the methods of John Wallis and when he had visited a relative, who had a Deaf daughter, thus became interested in deafness. Henry Baker's first pupil was Jane Forester. After succeeding with her, he became a visiting teacher. He had no school, but lived with is pupils. Unlike John Wallis and William Holder, he saw the instruction of the Deaf more as a business opportunity rather than a scientific endeavor. Like many of his predecessors, Baker was very secretive so much that he had his clients enter a legal agreement to ensure that they would not reveal his methods. It was not until after his death that his methods were revealed when his papers had been bequeathed to his grandson. He only accepted pupils he was certain would be successful. The methods he used to educate the Deaf were techniques to be applied, and not experiments to be learned from. Not all of his students were from the elite. Sometimes he paid the parents so that he could teach their Deaf child to read. Because he had taught several students, unlike Wallis and Holder, Baker is credited for being the first professional teacher of the Deaf in England.