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Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet:

Harrison Boxley
November 27, 2012


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 expansion.

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 father.

Works Cited:

Carroll, Cathryn. A Father, A Son, and a University: Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, 1787-1851. May 1998.

Gallaudet University,

Russell Bowen, Andy. A World of Knowing: A Story about Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet. Carolhoad Books, 1995.

Enders, Kaitlin. Learning to Give:Gallaudet, Thomas Hopkins.

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