Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet:
November 27, 2012
THOMAS HOPKINS GALLAUDET
Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet was a man whose work
was conducive to helping humankind understand that those who are
Deaf can be educated.
Thomas Gallaudet was born in Philadelphia on
December 10,1787. His family relocated to Hartford, Connecticut when
he was just a young child. An exceptional child he began attending
Yale at the tender age of fifteen. In 1805, Thomas graduated the
university two months shy of his eighteenth birthday.
He then worked as a law assistant and tutor but recurring ill health
was exacerbated by city life. Gallaudet found better health and
satisfaction as a door to door salesman in the rural areas of
Kentucky and Ohio. He met many families most of which had little or
no money and many of the children were unschooled. He made a point
of helping these families and spent much of his time educating the
children in U.S. history, religion and geography.
Theological studies became very important in Gallaudet’s life and in
1812 he made the decision to enter a theological seminary, becoming
a licensed preacher two years later. Traveling from one town to
another he was able to be where people needed him the most. This
also allowed him to visit his home and family on a regular basis. On
one of his visits home, he met the daughter of Dr. Mason Cogswell,
Alice. She was Deaf and mute as a result of childhood illness.
Gallaudet took an interest in this little girl trapped in her own
silent world with no way to communicate with those around her.
His determination to find a way of educating this little girl lead
him to a school in Europe that was educating the Deaf. The
Cogswell’s reluctance to send Alice way at such a young age, sowed
the seed that Gallaudet should open a school for the deaf in the
United States. With the support of Dr. Cogswell and others it was
decided that Gallaudet should travel to Europe and learn the
techniques and methods being used to educate the Deaf.
Gallaudet arrived in France and worked with Abbe Sicard, the author
of many of the resources that Gallaudet had relied on when teaching.
During his stay he became great friends with one of the Royal
Institution’s teachers, Laurent Clerc. After a year of research,
both Gallaudet an Clerc returned to the United States to open their
school for the Deaf. In April 1817, the Connecticut Asylum for the
Education and Instruction of Deaf and Dumb Persons was opened. It
was later renamed the American School for the Deaf. The first class
had eight students, people quickly heard about the good work the
school was doing and by the end of the first winter, the school had
thirty students. The school was a success and was visited by
President James Monroe, which led to a government grant for
Gallaudet married one of his students, Sophia Fowler in August 1821.
Together they had eight children. In 1831 Gallaudet left the school
to continue his work as a minister but he continued to advocate and
educate those he met on the issues of Deaf people. In 1851, he
passed away due to complications of the lung disease that had dogged
his health for most of his life. His youngest son Edward, followed
in his footsteps and continued to advocate for Deaf education, he
also became the principal at the School for the Deaf just like his
Carroll, Cathryn. A Father, A Son, and a
University: Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, 1787-1851. May 1998.
Gallaudet University, http://www.gallaudet.edu/.
Russell Bowen, Andy. A World of Knowing: A
Story about Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet. Carolhoad Books, 1995.
Enders, Kaitlin. Learning to Give:Gallaudet,
Thomas Hopkins. http://www.learningtogive.org
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