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A Handbook

R.S. Rosen, Ph.D.

Teachers College, Columbia University
History is a (re)construction of the past.

The past consists of events and personalities.

The past are being constructed and reconstructed:

New questions, interests, data, methodologies, and interpretations crop up.

The reconstructions are made to help understand the present by studying the past.
The past is (re)drawn to account for the present.

Intellectual history is a branch of history that studies the history

of ideas.

Ideas are grounded on events and personalities and shape political, economic, social,
religious, medical, literary, educational and cultural behavior and institutions within a
defined human territory across a delineated period of time.

An intellectual history of ideas about deafness and deaf people.

The history of ideas of deafness and about deaf people in political, economic, social,
religious, medical, literary, educational and cultural contexts.

Reflected in the works of philosophers, artists, literati, scientists, and theologians.

Deaf people are viewed in terms of social categories:

Social categories are essentially cultural notions. They consists of systems of
meanings that society assigns to experiences, peoples, places, and things.
Social categories are created out of interactions among events and personalities.

A history of the deaf is a study of changing conceptualizations of deafness and deaf

people based on changing societal order.

The historical issues in the study of the deaf body are:

What are the different conceptions and treatments of deafness proffered in history?

Does deaf community and sign language exist at a particular time and space?

What are the societal forces shaping them?

How are historical events and periods be characterized within the time and spatial frame?

Historiographic issues in historical research: How to talk about history?

Issues of reliability and verification of data and data analysis.

Chronicle vs. History

Chronology is the act of correspondence.

Identificational brand of history: dates, names, and positions.

History is the act of coherence.

Deep analysis and structuring of discrete events and personalities into a narration.

The nature and types of historical evidence

The sources of data:

Primary or secondary

Direct or indirect.

Oral tradition vs. written records.

The producers and the sources where data are found.

Producers of data produce perspectives on events and personalities.

Insiders vs. outsiders of the events and personalities.

Fraud in data: forgeries vs. fakes.

The types of evidence used in constructing history are different for different eras in
human history.
Types of evidence for a history of the D/deaf

Different for different eras in human history.

During ancient, classical, and medieval periods:

Stone etchings

Papyrus- and paper-based literature, poetry, philosophical treatises, canons of

medicine, digests of law, and theological works.

Works of art

Since the invention of the Gutenburg printing presses in the 14th century:

Books on literature, poetry, philosophical treatises, canons of

medicine, digests of law, theological works, and travelers’ journals.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, with the advent of science:

Scientific and social scientific research works in books and journals.

The evidence is garnered from those sources that contain references to terms such as:


The evidence also comes from medical, social, and cultural institutions.
Social, spatial and temporal dimensions of history

Social dimension:

Unit vs. constituency.

Comparison of a social unit in different times and space:
must be of the same constituency.
Do not use per-set unit of analysis:
No teleological (ontological) preconceptions of history before performing
historical analysis.
Social categories such as social class, age, sex, gradients:
Constructed from events, not vice versa.
Start with events, then look for social categories it affects/generates it.
Different events within and across space and time generate different
meanings of deafness and deaf people.

Temporal dimension:

The nature of historical progression of ideas, events and personalities.

Directionality of changes of factors over time and space.
Substantial temporal variation in how the same people or unit operates in different
times as well as in different spaces.
Three notions of temporality in history.
Linear (ascending or descending).
Steady state.
Temporal aspects of historical analysis.
Three levels of time: event, social, environment, “clock.”
Seasonal, yearly, decade, century, millennium.
Let events per se structure and periodize time, not vice versa.

Spatial dimension:

Micro-history vs. macro-history.
Local (periphery) vs. regional vs. center.
Substantial spatial variation in how the same people or unit operate in different
spaces as well as in different times.
Historical Issues in the Study of the Deaf Body

The condition of deafness occurred in all societies; not restricted to any social group or type of
social structure. Early civilizations were beset with diseases, pestilence, plaques, wars, poverty,
inbreeding, migration, inherited defects, and other natural and human causes. These were the
leading causes of deafness.

Problem with evidence: the term “deaf’ and “mute: They were either one term or many terms in
ancient languages. They also do not always refer to hearing impairment or deaf people or sign
language, but refer to silence, quietness, non-action, in a figurative sense.

Incidence and conditions of deafness is a matter of conjecture for early, prehistoric, ancient,
classical, and medieval societies. Most information is found in empires, such as those in Europe.

In ancient, classical, medieval, and renaissance periods, deafness is metaphorized and

appropriated, and the deaf themselves are reduced to metaphor in a process that is played out in
literary works, in sermons, in royal proclamations, and in medicine, and in plays and poems.
The Ancient Era, 2100-1000 B.C.

Ancient Classifications


sukku = deaf; a person who is dense, dazed, uncultivated, stupid.

askikku = dumb; cannot hear means cannot understand.


cophon = deaf; deaf and mute; idiot.

alogos = deprived of reason.


mutus = deaf-mute.

In the ancient Western world, mastery of spoken language is a harbinger of civilization.

The Sumerians

Deafness first noted in earliest human societies in Mesopotamia, in Sumer.

King Hammurabi—The Code of Hammurabi (2067-2025 BC):

Code of Hammurabi was prepared during the period of Assurbanipal (ca 668-626 BCE)—library
of tablets, some dated back to Third Millennium BCE. Code inscribed on a basalt stone stele
(clay). The code states nothing on deafness; it refers to medical practice and malpractice.

Themes: gods, customs, illnesses, supernatural causes, and medical treatments.

All deaf were seen as idiots

Forbidden infanticide for the disabled

There were supernatural causes of disabilities

The gods inflicted disability as a punishment upon those who incurred their anger.

If the gods were not to blame, a malignant being who disliked humanity was seen
as responsible for evil and unhappiness.

“That the strong might not injure the weak, in order to protect the widows and
orphans…” (In Introduction)

Section 282: “If a slave say to his master: ‘You are not my master’ if they convict
him his master shall cut off his ear.”

Other Sumerian tablets:

Congenital deafness is referred in Table 12.111: “If (a woman of childbearing age’s

insides) are packed into her lower abdomen, she will give birth to a deaf/retarded child.”
Cases of individuals with abnormally placed ears and large external ears (jug-ears) were

50 prescriptions were prescribed; 4 of them concern hearing loss, of which one is

restricted to right-sided hearing loss and one to left-sided loss. Assyrian prescriptions for
diseases of the ears: Tinnitus, hearing loss, hearing loss and otalgia, otorrhoes,
otalgia/swelling, wax.

One of the treatments of hearing loss: “If a man’s ears are dull of hearing thou shalt
sprinkle one shekel of pomegranite water and one shekel of opopanax water on wool, put
it into his ear(s): thou shalt do this for three days, on the fourth day thou shalt cleanse his
ears, bray alum and blow it into his ears.”

Sumerian proverbs from Ur (UET 6/2, 226):

“Deaf,…above you, My son is not fit for a scribe.”

Akkadian observations I.11:

“…I have become like a deaf man….Once I behaved like a lord, now I
have become a slave…The fury of my companions destroys me.”

“The risk was foreseen that some rogue might use a mad, deaf, blind or otherwise
disabled person as an unwitting agent to commit a sacrilegious act so that the
resultant cause should be diverted from the instigator.” (in KAR 202)
Ancient Egypt
Ebers Papyrus (1553 BC).

Originally written by disciples of a Mesopotamian physician, Imhotep.

Major concerns: customs and medicine. Concerned with general medical conditions.

A collection of “legal” and medical works, and social observations.

Medical works:
cover many human ailments, from abortion to tumors
supernatural etiologies
alchemist treatments
ancient recipes
sober advices
Deafness cannot be cured medically. Tried with lotions and ointments.
A proposed vascular cause of deafness and the impact of deafness on
speech: “As to that through which the ears become deaf: there are
two vassels that affect it, namely the ones leading to the root of the
eye; another location, to the whole eye. When he is deaf, his mouth
cannot be opened (i.e., he cannot speak).”
A proposed treatment for poor hearing: “The beginning of remedies for an
Ear whose hearing is poor: red ochre, juice of tamarix, are ground
fine with fresh balanites oil and applied to the ear.”
“Legal” works:
Forbade infanticide for handicapped and disabled.
Respected them due to its ideologies of conscience, civilization, truth,
justice, righteousness, one god.
Social observations:
There were activities that aimed to help bypass hearing loss.
Trained blind people to become poets and musicians.
Koller Papyrus, Warnings to the Idle Scribe (1200 BC).

“They tell me that thou forsakest writing, and departest and dost flee; that thou forsakest
writing and usest thy legs like horses of the riding-school(??).

“Thy heart is fluttered; thou art like an axj-bird. Thy ear is deaf(?); thou art like an ass in
taking beatings. Thou art like an antilope in fleeing.

“Thou art not a hunter of the desert, nor a Mazoi of the West! Thou art one who is deaf
and does not hear, to whom men make (signs) with the hand.

Leningrad Papyrus:
1116B: “No one can live when clouds cover over (the sun). Then everyone
is deaf for the lack of it.” (Possible association between hearing and speech

Winzer (1993):

Infanticide of deformed newborns by age of 3 versus deafened later in life after age 3.
Unequivocal treatment by the rulers, elders, families, parents.
One early Egyptian wrote that there is no use wasting words upon the dumb.
Mass people were largely illiterate.
Education was reserved for bureaucrats and for bureaucratic purposes.
Ancient Hebrews

Old Testament

Exodus (4:10-17):

Dialogues between Moses and the Lord

Moses complained he does not speak well. Lord says he made that way:
“And the Lord said unto him (Moses), ‘Who hath made man’s mouth? Or
who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing or the blind? Have not I the

Leviticus (19: 14):

Lord gives laws to Moses:

Deaf should not be cursed nor put into a stumbling block before the blind:
“Thou shalt not curse the deaf, nor put a stumbling block before the blind,
but shalt fear thy God; I am the Lord.”

Isaiah (29:18, 35:5-6):

Promise of life free from deafness and all limitations.

Deafness will be cured.

Rabbinical literature

400 references to deafness and deaf people in Mishnah and Talmud.


Consists of 63 tractates (sections).

Debates, rulings, and sayings of the Tannaim—5 generations of rabbis from 50 BC to 200
AD, and rabbis of Amoraim and Savoraim, from 200-700 AD).

A collection of customs and practices in economy, family, marriages, contracts, religious


Looked at the legal status of the deaf based on cognitive and communicative competence.

Mishnah Volume I, Chapter 4: “If one exposes his cattle to the sun, or he places them in
the custody of a deaf-mute, a fool, or a minor, and they break away and do
damage, he is liable.”

Mishnah, Volume III, Order Nashim:

Yebamot (7:4, 12:4, 13:7-10, and 14:1-4)

Mishnah, Volume IV, Order Nezikin:

Baba Qamma (4:4, 6:2, 6:4, and 8:4)
Baba Batra (8:5)
Baba Mesia (5:11).

Berakhot 2:3, 6:3, 9:1, 9:5

Terumoth 1:1, 1:2
Sotah 4:5
Giffin 2:6
Sanhedrin 4:5, 8:4
Rosh Hashanah 3:8

Deaf = deaf-mute, especially those born deaf and mute.

Classed the deaf and dumb with the mentally defective.

Minimal non-oral communication needs to be diagnosed before the deaf can enter
into property ownership, marriage, divorce, etc., but not real estate.

The deaf-mute has no legal responsibility

money and possessions
any action requiring hearing, speech, and thought
The deaf-mute are:
not competent as a witness to any transaction
unpunished if injuring others
others punished if inflict injury to deaf
allowed to transact business with moveable goods
could not possess or acquire real estate
not obliged to observe religious command

The deaf-mute do marry with the hearing.

Marriage and divorces are legally binding for them.

If a deaf-mute creates damages in a place, its owner is liable for damages.

Hearing people who are also mute function like hearing people.
They are placed under no restrictions.

The deaf who talks, or can talk:

Have the same legal rights and responsibilities like hearing people.

Deaf mutes may transact business by signs and be communicated with by signs,
as well as by lip movements.

Talmud (3rd century BCE—5th century CE):

Narratives of life experiences based on rabbinical interpretations of the Torah on

religious observances and social regulations.

Narratives of the Talmud: Berakhot, Volume 1, The Jerusalem Talmud, Halakhah

Chapter 9, Number 39, “Who Is as the Lord, Whenever We Call Him?”, page 252.
When Moses fled Egypt, some of his soldiers became deaf, some blind, and some
mute. In a conversation between the Lord and Moses, the Lord said
that He made some people deaf, some dumb and some blind, and He
supports Moses.

Deaf can intermarry if contracted by signs. Babylonian Talmud: Yevamot, Chp. 14, Folio
Rabbi Malchio in the fourth century AD:
married deaf people, gave financial help, and ensure its success

Deaf mutes were not the same as “emotionally disturbed.”

The deaf are seen as having normal emotions.

Rabbi Yehuda (first century AD):

Reported on occupations of the deaf.

Some occupations required high learning, understanding, and skills.

Some deaf mutes occupied highly responsible positions in the Temple

Deaf sons of Rabbi Yochanan ben Gudgoda, in charge of

Some deaf mutes wrote the Torah scrolls.

Some deaf mutes worked as merchants and tailors.

They all conducted business transactions in mime and signs.

There might be education for deaf mutes since the first century AD?
The Classical Era, 1000/500 B.C.-400 A.D.
Classical Greece


Plutarch: The Parallel Lives, Lykurgas

Legal codes of classical Greece.

Pages 253-257:
Children were the property not of their parents but of the commonwealth.

They were left in charge of their mothers until age of 7.

Newborn babies were brought before the elders to be examined for their fitness
for citizenship before acknowledged by a family, to see if they are physically
capable of developing into warriors.

Infanticide of deformed and idiotic infants.

“Let it be a law that nothing imperfect should be brought up” (Aristotle, Politics)

If newborns have imperfections or appeared handicapped to the elders of the state,

they were left on the mountainside to die.
Literature and Histories

The first use of the word “deaf’:

Aeschylus: Libation Bearers, Para. 875.

Homer: Iliad.

Herodotus: The Histories (CA 446 BCE)

A tale about an anonymous deaf son of Croesus, a King of Lydia and the world’s richest
man of the time, who were deemed as worthless and incapacitated, and who later
regained voice to save the father from the pyre.

Book 1, para 34: “He had two ones; one with a physical disability, being deaf and dumb.”
Para 39: “You are my only son, for I do not count that wretched cripple, your brother.”
Para 86: “A Persian soldier was about to cut Croesus down…but the dumb son, seeing
the danger, was so terrified by the fearful thing that was about to happen, that he
broke into speech, and cried ‘Do not kill Croesus, fellow!’. Those were the first
words that he uttered—and he retained the power of speech for the rest of his

Plutarch: Alcibades

Deaf people lisped, stuttered, stammered, and mumbled.

The speech of deaf people was ridiculed.

In many Greek literary works, people with hard of hearing are not worthless.
An important measure of one’s worth was his participation in the army or the navy.
All male citizens were included in the military.
As much as 30 percent of old men were hearing impaired.


Aclepius, the Good god of healing, and the son of Apollo.

Temple of Asclepius, at Epidavros:
“Ex voto erected in gratitude for the cure of deafness ca 9/8 BCE. Presented as a
dedication of Cutius, King of the Alpine Gauls.”

Hippocrates (460-377 BC): Corpus of Medicine (460 BC)

Founded one of the greatest medical schools on the island of Cos, and a son of an
Aclepius priest.

Adopted accounts of medical techniques from ancient Egypt.

He rejected supernatural explanations
Did not believe that evil spirits and demons cause disabling conditions in humans.

Constructed the humoral theory of medicine, modeled after Empedocles (5th century

Four humours: earth, air, fire, and water

Made observations and make inferences about endogamous etiologies
He did not dissect human bodies but animals to make inferences

The references to deafness:

a temporary condition
a symptom of another condition
a diagnostic tool

Deafness as a possible complication for other causes.

Deafness is seen as a valuable diagnostic tool than a physical infirmity in itself

Studied and worked on middle ear infections.

He focused on the treatment of otitis media.
Focused on temporary, not permanent, deafness.

Commented on the connections or relationships between speech and hearing.

Noted some people born deaf with lack of speech.
Thus, speech depends on proper actions of the tongue.

Hippocrates’ Aphorisms, section 3: “South winds relax the body, make the tissues moist,
reduce acuity of hearing and produce headaches and vertigo.”
Hippocrates differentiated between manifestations of ear diseases by age:
In para 24: “…new-born infants suffer from…and discharging ears…”
Para 31: “In the old…dizziness…and deafness.”

Celsius (25 BC-AD 50): De Medicina (first century BC).

A follower of Hippocratic medicine, and wrote of specific medical treatments for hearing

He diverted from Hippocrates on medical treatments.

Offered agents and curing remedies for ear aliments and dull hearing.
Justified medical treatments based on Hippocratic theory.

Book 6:7: The importance of ear examination prior to treatment.

“When a man is becoming dull of hearing, which happens most often after
prolonged headaches, in the first place his ear must be inspected: for there will be
found either a crust, such as comes upon the surface of ulcerations, or concretions
of wax.”

Book 6:3: Treatments for a range of ear disorders.

“A general remedy for all ear cases contains: cinnamon and cassia; flowers of
round cyperus, castoreum, white pepper, long pepper, cardomomum and bennut;
male frankincense, Syrian nard, fatty myrrh, saffron, soda scum. These are
pounded…then mixed with vinga. When for use they are diluted with vinegar.”

Socrates (470?-399 BC).

“Socrates, he who does not write.” (Nietzsche).

Discussed about the origins of language in “Dialogues with Hemogenes” in Plato’s

Cratylus (386 BC):

“Suppose that we had no voice or tongue, and wanted to communicate with one
another. Should we not, like the deaf and dumb, make signs with the hands
and head and the rest of the body?”

Deafness is not the same as speechlessness.

Deaf do sign and do convey thoughts through signs.

Used metaphors of up to mean light and down to mean heavy.

Observed and wanted to use deaf’s signing with each other if one have no
voice or tongue.

Cognition is the same for signs and for words.

“Anyone can show what he thinks about anything, unless he is speechless or deaf from
birth” (in Plato’s Theaetetus, 160e, 161a)

Conducted an oral school in Athens

Opposed to using literacy in place of oral recitation and argument for instruction

Plato (427-347 BC):

Distinguishes between theatretical and oratorical gestures
Distinction between pantomime units and emotive gestulatiions.

Recognizes differences between deaf and mute.
Aristotle (384-322 BC):

Politics (Book 7, 1335b, 19-21).

“With regard to the choice between abandoning an infant or rearing it, let there be
a law that no crippled child be reared.”

Problems (395 BC): Book IX, Problems connected with the Voice.

Derived his philosophical thoughts from medicine.

Emphasis on Spoken Word. Situation of the deaf deteriorated.

Problems Book XI, No. 1: “Why is it that of all the senses the hearing is most
liable to be defective from birth? Is it because hearing and the voice may
arise from the main source? Now language, which is a kind of voice, seems to
be very easily destroyed and to be very difficult to perfect: this is indicated
by the fact that we are dumb for a long term after our birth, for at first we do not
talk at all and then at length begin only to lisp. And because language is easily
destroyed, and language (being a kind of voice) and hearing both have the
same source, hearing is, as it were, per accidens, though not per se, the most
easily destroyed of the senses. Further evidence of the fact that the source
of language is eminently easy to destroy may be taken from the other
animals; for no animal other than man talks, and even he begins to do so
late, as has already been remarked.”

Book XI, No. 2: “Why is it the deaf always speak through their nostrils? Is it be
cause they are near to being dumb? Now the dumb make sounds through
their nostrils; for the breath escapes by that way because their mouth is closed,
and it is closed because they make no use of their tongue for vocal purposes.”

Book XI, No. 4: “Why do the deaf always speak through their nostrils> Is it be
cause the deaf breathe more violently? For they are near to being dumb;
passage therefore of the nostrils is distended by the breath, and those who are in
this condition speak through the nostrils.”

On the Soul (Book II, 420b.5 and 420b.29-421a.1).

The soul resides in the windpipe and the areas of the body that create speech, and
that “voice is sound with a meaning.”
History of Animals (Book 4, part. 9, 536b.4).

“Men that are born deaf are in all cases also dumb; that is, they can make vocal
sounds, but they cannot speak.”

Hard of hearing are those who knew how to speak but cannot regulate their


First learning of poetry and literature is done by imitation

—very much like the way deaf people learn and think.

The ear is indicative of personality.

On Sense and Sensibles (chapter 1)

435a.17: “Speech is the basis of knowledge….Therefore of those who have been

deprived of one of the sense from the first, the blind can have better access to
knowledge than the deaf.”

436b.16-437a.15: “…it is hearing that contributes most to the growth of

intelligence. For rational discourse is a cause of instruction in virtue of its being
audible…Accordingly, of persons destitute from birth of either sense, the blind
are more intelligent than the deaf and dumb.”

An interpretation:
Thought = intelligence = articulating words.
Can hear = can have thought = have intelligence.
No hearing = no thought = no intelligence.
The deaf has no thought and no intelligence.

Deafness = muteness.

There were intermarriages among deaf adults.

Some deaf people were observed to sign.

All thought experiments.

No evidence to prove or disprove sign language and deaf community.

Future societies follow Aristotleian position on deafness and thought. Influenced science,
medicine, and philosophy, up until the 18th century. Deaf were kept in ignorance.

For the Greeks, the degree of one’s hearing loss never appears to be an important issue; what
mattered was one’s ability to speak. Aristotle recognized the hard of hearing as those who knew
how to speak but cannot regulate their voices. Their speech was only ridiculed, and in literature,
they lisped, stuttered, stammered, and mumbled. Examples are in Plutarch’s Alcibades.

Edwards (1997) wrote that the Greeks perceived deafness an as intellectual impairment because
of verbal communication problems. Speech and intelligence go hand in hand. No speaking
ability indicated stupidity. The deaf is also dumb, “deaf and dumb.” There was a diversity of
definitions of the term “deaf” Muteness indicated diminished worth. The situation is different for
the hard of hearing because they can speak. Language, especially speech, was the hallmark of
human achievement. Deaf and dumb means separation from the political and intellectual arena.
Deafness was perceived not as a physical handicap but as an impairment of reasoning and basic

The themes are: philosophy, medicine (anatomy, which reflects physiology). There were two
types of deaf people: deaf mutes, who were classed with the idiots, and deaf who speaks, who
were classed with the hard of hearing. The ear was, certainly, the most obvious channel of
hearing, listening, and understanding (Edwards, 1997). This is an elite’s view of the deaf, they
valued eloquence that they thought the deaf lacked. No views from the mass populace.

No evidence to prove or disprove sign language and deaf community (Edwards, 1997). A Greek
would not differentiate or cared about the difference between gestured communication and true
sign language.

There is a possibility that some deaf children of the elites learned reading and writing, and they
communicated in those means with their families and other elites. But the number is small.

Because it is an abstract characteristic, deafness is not easily depicted, and, like headaches, is
difficult to interpret in representation (Edwards, 1997).
Classical Rome



Roman Antiquities

One of the legendary founders of Rome

Those who are a liability to the State were born with gross deformities or
physical imperfections were murdered by turning to pieces by
hungry dogs at age of 3. (also in and Critical Essays)

Deaf included?

The Romans aimed for physical perfection, which they inherited from the Greeks.

It is ridiculous to teach the deaf speech since speech is linked with hearing

Deafness is equated with mutism.

The deaf are seen as incapable of being educated.

Pliny the Elder

Natural History (AD 77) (23.79; 35.21)

Taught painting to deaf son of a consul, Quintus Pedius.

A co-heir with Octavian.

“There are no persons born deaf who are not also dumb.”

Book 10, 136: “Only man has ears that do not move, and this is the origin of the
nickname ‘flap-eared’ (flaccus).”

Book 28, 48: “In cases, however, where the deafness is very considerable, gall
warmed in a pomegranate rind with myrrh and rue, is injected into the ears;
sometimes, also, fat bacon is used for this purposes, or fresh asses’ dung, mixed
with oil of roses: in all cases, however, the ingredients should be warmed.”

The Laws of the Twelve Tables (fifth century BC):

Ancient Roman Law.

A codification into statutory law of existing customs, reflecting the preponderantly

agricultural character of the Roman community.

Sole concern was to ascertain the fact of unsoundness of mind or body and its
consequences for the performance of acts judged before the law.

The deaf were seen as social and economic hazards.

The deaf were classified as “mente catti fiiriosi,” or raving maniacs.


The Laws

The Roman attitude toward handicapped infants were derived from the Greeks.

Distinguishes between theatretical and oratorical gestures

Distinction between pantomime units and emotive gestulations.

Ulpien (second century AD):

The Rules of Ulpien

Deaf legally identified with the insane and profligate and were stripped of their

The Romans looked to the family, rather than the State, as the basic unit of socialization. The
paterfamilias has power over the life and death of family members, so fathers, who were male
citizens, can kill newborn babies they deemed as deformed and other wise worthless. Later on,
they were restricted from that right. Around the time of the Empire, from about 30 BC, the power
of the paterfamilias was reduced. There were reports of wet nurses tending to abandoned deaf
babies at the base of the Columna Lactaria. Some deaf children survived possibly because of
parental solicitude, undetected congenital conditions, or postnatal handicaps, were tolerated as if
they were of economic or social value.
The Romans aimed for physical perfection, which they inherited from the Greeks. They thought
it is ridiculous to teach the deaf speech since speech is linked with hearing, just what the Greeks
thought. Deafness is equated with mutism. The deaf are seen as incapable of being educated.

The Roman jurists were not concerned with the nature and cause of disabilities; their sole
concern was to ascertain the fact of unsoundness of mind or body and its consequences for the
performance of acts judged before the law. This focus led them to create a legal framework
characterized by institutions such as guardianships that provided a pattern for later legal
developments affecting exceptional persons.


Claudius Galen (AD 130-200)


Treatise on Medicine (AD 170)

An encyclopedia of medical knowledge of his time

Combined Hippocratic corpuses and current medical knowledge into a work

influenced medicine until the Renaissance.

On Language and Ambiguity (Fallacies due to Language)

There is a common origin in the brain for both speech and hearing;
injury to these areas created both deafness and dumbness. Believed that
impaired hearing or deafness is caused by a lesion of the organ of
hearing or of the cochlear nerve or be a lesion at the origin of this nerve to
the brain.

Treatments: weight reduction diets, laxatives, masticatories, and local applications

capable of dissolving “thick and tenacious fluids.”

On the Natural Faculties

Held conventional attitudes toward deafness

Assumed a common cerebral origin for, and a functional relationship between,
speech and hearing.
Performed operations on deaf persons to cure their dumbness
Operated on the ligament of the tongue,
The procedure persisted well into the twentieth century.
The themes are: law, medicine, and charity by wet nurses. Medicine? Education? Pantomimes?
There were two groups of deaf people: deaf mutes, classed with the idiots, and deaf who speak,
who have full legal rights. The former are relieved from legal responsibilities. The latter can
perform legal acts on their own behalf.

The Greeks and Romans viewed the deaf as economic and social hazards.


Early Christianity

Matthew (9:5, 13; 11:5) and Mark (7: 31-37, 9: 14-29) (70 CE)

Deafness = inability to hear

Dumbness = inability to speak

Deafness and dumbness cured as miracle by Jesus.

“And they bring unto him (Jesus) one that was deaf, and had an impediment in his
speech; and they beseech him to put his hand upon him./And he took him aside
from the multitude, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spit, and touched his
tongue;/And looking up to heavens, he sighed, and saith unto him, Ephphatha,
that is, Be opened./And straightaway his ears were opened, and the string of his
tongue was loosed, and he spoke plain./And he charged them that they should tell
no man; but the more he charged them, so much the more a great deal they
published it;/And were beyond measure astonished saying, He hath done all
things well: he maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak.”

Paul in his Letter to the Romans (10:6-9, 16-18) (55 CE):

Paul’s epistle to the Romans:

“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God”:
If cannot hear then one is denied faith, cannot be a Christian, and cannot
be saved.

Luke (7:18-22): (Same as Matthew and Mark)

The Medieval Era in Western Europe, 400-1500

Europe 400-1500

Mosaic of territories with various centers of authority coexisted.

Diversity of views on deafness.

The available evidence comes from:

the Roman Byzantine
Mediterranean area
Islamic people.

The types of evidence on deafness and deaf people are


Sources of information:
Theological stories of saints’ lives (who have met the deaf)
Medical treatises (on ear, etc.)
Legal (laws on disabled)
Iconography (pictures and images).

Some doctors see deafness for more than two years are incurable, otherwise use treatments.

Deaf people might receive charity, but not instruction or education.

The early legal code of almost all nations in Europe imposed on the deaf more severe civil and
religious disabilities than the Justinian Code, such as:
deprivation of rights of inheritance
restriction from the celebration of Mass
denial of the right to marry without the express dispensation of the Pope.
Medieval Era

Eventful period in history of the deaf:

prevalence of gestures in language and in deeds (actions)
mass illiteracy and manual behaviors in the general population (especially in western Italy, in
and around Naples).
For the Medieval Ages historical factors were important in the predominance of gestures:
Disintegration of the Roman Empire
Confrontation of very different languages
Eclipse of the written word
Remoteness of areas, even of villages, the near disappearance of cities
Isolation of intellectual knowledge in monasteries, etc.
The vernacular language is for, and spoken by, the masses and Latin is for the elites.
The themes are diversity of views, literate elites versus mass population.


The Justinian Code

In late 300 A.D the Roman Empire breakup into eastern and western parts. Eastern Roman
Empire center at the Greek city of Byzantum (later Constantinople, present-day
Istanbul, Turkey): kept Greek classical learning, Orthodox Christianity, and
Roman legal tradition.
In AD 476, Western Roman Empire fell to Germanic barbarians from northern Europe, which
began the Middle Ages.
After 1,000 years, Eastern Roman Empire at Constantinople was burnt down by invading
Ottoman Turks in 1453.
Emperor Constantine legitimized Christianity and offered financial help to families of
disabled babies instead of infanticide.
Emperor Justinian (reigned AD 527-565)
The Digest of Roman Law (AD 533)
50-volume rendering of judicial interpretations
Corpus Juris Civilis, which contained the Digest.
Institutes, a four-volume handbook of civil law
Justinian Code contained in the Institutes.
Integrated a thousand years of Roman law and, combined with the codes of the
Germanic invaders, provided the basis for most legal systems in modern Europe,
that has not changed until the mid- 18th century.
Justinian did not make many changes but combined past interpretations. Only two
manuscripts of the Corpus survived.
Five (5) Conditions of Deafness:
If a person cannot speak and hear by birth, then the person should not make a will
or bequest (transmission of property), or to be granted freedom by
manumission (freedom from slavery or bondage). Holds for both sexes.
If person cannot speak and hear by calamity, the person should get education and
be allowed to make wills and bequests, and to be granted freedom.
If a person is born deaf but can speak, they need auditory training, and he can
have all the freedoms mentioned in (2), above.
Persons deafened by disease can do everything without hindrance.
Persons hearing but unable to speak, and is well-educated, can do anything
mentioned in (3), above.
Recognizes that deafness is not dumbness or muteness.
There were different types of deafness.
They gave full rights to individuals who were
deaf and mute, but literate
deaf but articulate
mute but hearing
adventitiuosly deaf
Rights are denied to those who are deaf and mute from birth and also illiterate--
mostly all those who were born deaf, since those born deaf could never be literate.
The Justinian Code No. 1 suggested those who were born deaf could never be literate.

The later Romans realized that complete deafness is a rarity.

There were evidence suggesting the existence of auditory training.
In Byzantine society there were evidence that the deaf were placed in hospitals and asylums.
It is reported that the deaf were skilled in crafts and made that for a living in many societies.
There are deaf soldiers in Roman and Byzantine armies, mostly deafened or mildly
congenitally deaf
There is no evidence from ancient Greek and Romans that a person born deaf could be educated.
The Romans developed pantomime in theaters, but the concept that words could be presented
through writing, manual spelling and signing, without speech, was inconceivable to them.
The themes are: civil law. Diversity of deaf population with groups of deaf people.

Images of the Deaf in Medieval Western Europe (de Loup, 1993). 5th-15th
Variety of reactions towards deafness and muteness.
Ignorance and understanding and wanting to meet the deaf.
Thesis of de Saint-Loup: Diverse reactions against the deaf: acceptance (=integration)
rejection, due to weak, non-omnipresent influence of the Church, and lack of centralized
state; largely localized and regionalized.

Also, majority of people were illiterate and manual laborers.

Gestures and pictures were widespread as learning devices.
Thus, the deaf were better advantaged then than today.
Middle Christianity

After the fall of the Rome, Constantine, the first of the Holy Roman Emperors, legitimatized
Christianity and declared it to be an official religion of the Roman Empire in AD 312.

St. Augustine (AD 354-430)

The City of God and Confessions
Believes in faith over sense and reason.
Used the Paulinian theme of fides ex audito (faith cometh through hearing).
Deafness is an hindrance to faith, difficult but not impossible to practice faith. (in
reference to St. Paul’s epistle to the Roman).
Deafness is a great fault to man’s inherent innocence: defect --> hindrance to faith itself
Apostle = “so then faith cometh by hearing.”
Those born deaf were incapable of exercising the Christian faith because they cannot hear
the Word and cannot read the Word.
Deaf are deprived of immortality.

De quantitute animae liber unus (The Magnitude of the Soul), Chapter 18:
Addresses the question of whether the soul has physical size and can grow.
Deafness = deaf people can learn and able to receive faith and salvation.
Recognize sign language and deaf capable of transmitting human thought and belief. Sign
language = spoken language in the ability to reach the soul.
Deaf children of hearing parents documented in the dialogue.
Proposed a thought experiment in which a hearing child is raised in isolation by “deaf-
mute” parents. The child will communicate with its parents by learning the signs the
parents use, and that such signs are a “learned art.”
Had observed a Milanese man who is deaf mute and communicate through signs. Also a
farmer and his wife who have four sons and daughters who are all deaf and dumb and
communicate thorough signs.

De doctrina christiana (Of Christian Doctrine)

distinguishes between theatretical and oratorical gestures in terms that suggest the
distinction between pantomime units and emotive gestulations.

The Council of Toledo (400 AD)

Contained accounts of miracles
Demonic seizures are being taken care of by the Church
Diseases are being taken care of by medicine.
Cassiodorus (c.490-c.585)
Raised the same issue as St. Augustine regarding the utility of signs to communicate and
acquire soul.

Whereas Plato has Socrates use the differences between spoken words and signs, Augustine used
the similarity of spoken and signed language. Both are thought experiments, and nothing to
do with deafness or sign languages.

The above accounts revealed negative views of deafness.

Deafness is a major obstacle to religious conversion.
Diseases and disabilities are signs of moral and spiritual flaws, possessed by evils as their
Healing, especially by Christ, opened one up for conversion.
The ministers recovered evil spirits from the ears.
Teaching of speech is also a miracle securing evils from muteness.
Texts of illustrations tell of cures of deafness using speech.

Disabled people drew small regard and little compassion from the people.
The church questioned their capacity for spiritual achievement and social responsibility.
There is no evidence of public support for disabled people; under the aegis of the church
hospices they cared for exceptional persons.

The Venerable Bede (AD 673-735)

The Ecclesiastical History of the English People.

St. John of Beverly (AD 685), an Anglo-Saxon, who claimed he taught a dumb man
how to speak in a short time, like a week, from letters, syllables, words, and then to

St. Sevenerius (A.D. 504). St. Sevenerius made similar attempts as St. John of
Beverly. He healed a person who had for some time been deaf and dumb.

Later writers said it was deaf and dumb man, so St. John is the first teacher of the deaf. All these
are disputable because it was only dumb man and speech cannot be taught in a short time and the
man was probably taught before.

Such speech work was actually posed as miracles.

Monasteries and Gestures in Medieval Europe

It was reported that Saint Basil, bishop of Caesarea, in AD 370 gathered all types of disabled
people into the monastic institutions that he controlled.

First communities to propose monastery acceptance of the deaf

French province of Lorraine (Bouxieres-aux-Dames)
Austria (Ossiach) in the 10th century.
“Integrated marginality.”

Code of the Saxons (13th century) in Germanic tribes.

Gestures of showing, pointing, commanding.
Gestures: nonverbal expressions.

Nitschke. Sign Language and Gestures in Medieval Europe: Monasteries,

Courts of Justice, and Society.
Monks used sign language in 10th, 11th, and 12th centuries.
Sign Language in Monasteries: Signs and gestures used in periods of silence.
Trappists, Cluny, Cisterians (12th century).
Understood by Europeans.
Liturgical gestures and movements.
Sign language by occupations: monasteries, courts. Range of variability. Sign language in
courts of justice: Different from monasteries.

The later Christians, after the fall of Rome, established monasteries and cloisters in the fourth
century AD for those who strove for moral perfection through asceticism, and by the 6th
century AD were carriers of Western Civilization.
Cloisterization of the deaf, which is a poorly studied area of research.
Gestures mark the daily routine in secular as well as religious ceremonies (illustrated in homages
in paintings).
Illustrations showed gestures that were used to confirm contractual transactional agreements.
Other illustrations showed that there were various uses of the hand and gesture in the Middle
Ages--the hand is a mnemonic device used to learn the alphabet or the numbers
(including calculations), or the dates for unfixed religious holidays.
Traveling preachers used symbols written on their hands to outline the different parts of their
speech, adding gestures to their sermons in order to be more persuasive; also musical
The hand not only conveys meaning but also performs an action: it protects. (“Natural history
of gestures”).
Gestures are not equivalent to speech and vice versa, just as the picture works differently
than the written word.
But gestures and pictures can associate with spoken and written words, give strength to them
and complete the message.
Monasteries: silent gestural communication. Welcomed deaf by hearing oblates or lay brothers.
Religious orders took up education of deaf children and adults.
Bragg: Visual-Kinetic Communication in Europe Before 1600:
A survey of sign lexicons and finger alphabets prior to the rise of deaf education, up to the
There is no genuine sign languages or deaf communities (groups consisting of at least several
households and persisting over generations) seems to have existed in those times.
Scholars confused the natural sign languages used by modern deaf communities with
artificial sign lexicons such as have been used in Benedictine monasteries from the 10th
century to the present, with “home sign” lexicons such as must have arisen in households
with deaf members, and even with fingerspelling.
Gestures are sublinguistic and not fully decontextualized (here and now) and not yet
(Gestures as extension of spoken language).
There were no vows of silence by medieval monks; none stated in the Rule of St.
Benedict. Only daily hours of silence. Signing was not mentioned in 4th century Rule
of St. Benedict, of Benedict himself who was a contemporary of Cassiodorous.
The history of finger alphabets and the history of signs do not merge until after the
Renaissance when both come into use for the instruction of deaf children.
Sign Lexicons.
No convincing evidence proves that a visual-kinetic language ever existed in Europe until
the rise of deaf communities in the modern era.
Lexicons are prescriptive (not descriptive) sign lists (which suggests that the lists did not
reflect actual signing) and that they include directions for articulation and,
occassionally, rationales or etymologies, but no grammar.
The earliest records of actual sign lexicons are the sign lists of cloistered monks, and
these date from the 10th century, none before the date.

St. Benedict. AD 579.

Rule of St. Benedict.
Corpus of official signs both permitted and not permitted, and unofficial signs, the
monk’s own versions.

Venerable Bede
De temporum rationae, preface entitled “De computo vel loquela digitorum”
(“Of counting or speaking with the fingers”).
It is the standard text on chronology during the Middle Ages.

Romano Computatio
Finger numbers to stand for letters
The substitution of letters for numbers, and vice versa, were well known in the Classical

Forms of gestures:
that are informative (animal sign language)
continue the movements of others (social coordination)
person be changed by movements of others (regulated by social dominance).
Medieval Christianity

Changes in Church practices with the deaf

5th century: deaf granted sacraments of baptism.
The Monastery of St. Jerome:
Deaf can understand Gospels through signs, that hearing is also a perception of the heart
not just the ears.
11th century: granted matrimony.
13th century: granted penance. (confession of sin, repentance, submission to penalties).
16th century: pronounce monastic vows. (vows of poverty, chastity, and free from material

Guillaume Durand (13th century)

Le Rational ou Manuel des divins offices
Many deaf refuse to hear the word of God, many mutes who does not want to speak.
Classed together foreigners and deaf and dumb as “flawed” in their pretense and lack of

Pope Innocent VIII (1484)

Malleus Maleficarum. (The hammer of witches.)
Declared war on witches
They included the disabled.

Plaques and social disruptions and urbanization created a pervasive pessimism; the medieval
church was wracked with dissension, hatred, and violence, and abuses. In 1095 Pope
Urban II called for the Crusades. In 1150, the church embraced the doctrine of the original
sin whereby everyone is born with sin or inherently evil, so needed to lead a good life.

Black Death, or the pestilence of the Great Mortality, that spread from Asia to Europe around
1348. Lost one-third of the European population from 1347 to 1351 (25 million people).
Mental derangement and dancing maniacs proliferated as a consequence. Witchcrafts and
witchhunters. Trials and laws. Heresy seen by the church as witchcraft. In 1484, Pope
Innocent VIII declared war on witches after writing the Malleus Maleficarum. (The
hammer of witches.) They included the disabled.

Up until the 18th century Enlightenment, European civilization was haunted by the idea of
witches, which led to deaths of hundred of thousands of people. One treatise on exorcism
included the deaf as possessed of the devil. Deafness is unamenable by medieval medical
treatment. The witchcraft lies at the intersection of the biological, existential and social
worlds of the inform (Sawyer 1989). Not everyone followed the Malleus.

It not until the late 17th century that the light of reason prevailed over witchcrafting.
Physicians’ Views

Alexander of Tralles (6th century physician)

Canon of Medicine
offers noise therapy.
writes that doctors should try anything.

Karl F. Paullini
Flagellum salutis
suggested voluntary beatings on the head to restore deafness and hardness of hearing and

Medieval medicine continued to draw from the notions of Hippocrates, Celsus, and Galen.
Sometimes rational, sometimes unreasoned.
Bizarre notions of religion and demonology to account for deafness for its etiology and
treatment of diseases.
There were various remedies for hearing problems in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. They
are screaming aloud, juices and other food in the ear, blows, white-hot iron.

1412 Medical/Surgical Treatise.

Pictures of human ear, treatment of ear, look at ear, and on deafness.
Treatments such as liquids, ointments, potions, foods, incisions, bloodletting.
They showed that the deaf with hearing people while other disabled groups were pictured
alone or solo, which might mean that the deaf is seen as handicap only when in contact
with the hearing and speaking persons?

Medieval medicine continued to draw from the notions of Hippocrates, Celsus, and Galen.
Sometimes rational, sometimes unreasoned.
Bizarre notions of religion and demonology to account for deafness for its etiology and
treatment of diseases.

Some medieval documents:

deaf people’s speech laughed at by the hearing.
Rare, though, because deafness is invisible in relation to the blind, etc.
Their families felt shame, not pain, resisted abandonment, leaving to abbeys to take care of
their deaf children.

Deaf worked in fields, artisans, domestics.


Digesta Nova
(No English translation.)

Wrote of deaf man by the name of Nellus Gabrielis, who can lipread.


English medieval literature

Chauson de Roland
Aeneas Epics
Easter Plays.
Gestures as Indicators of Emotion, States, and Social Order.
Fables and farces.

Le chaudronnier
Deafness silence dumbness = refusal?
all of this generate confusion and anxiety among the hearing, since they might have
created images of animality or monstrosity.
Done at the symbolic level.
Hard of hearing means misunderstandings.
Chretien de Troyes
Le chevalier au lion
villian cannot speak and therefore he cannot reason.
heros=hearing vs. villian=deaf.
Cardinal Nicolas of Cues
Le tableau ou la vision de Dieu
wrote of deaf woman practice lipreading with her daughter.

Agricola (d. 1485)

wrote of a deaf man who can read and write but not speak.
Bartolo della Marca c’Ancona (14th century).
(No English translation.)
A legal advisor.
Spoke of the possibility of deaf people’s achieving intellect and reason, even through sign

A post-humorous picture of English poet Geoffrey Chaucer, painted ca. 1410 in London, shows
him displaying his initials, GC, in a finger alphabet.

Henry III of England had a daughter, Catherine, who is deaf and dumb. (Matthew Paris, a
contemporary historian, wrote of her). She is fit for nothing, though possessed of great


Deaf people used lipreading and signs for communication purposes.

No specialized training for the deaf, but spontaneous efforts, esp. in family contexts or in shared
Communal and individual relationships (family, village, convents) played very important roles:
the deaf has a place in those structures where she or he an be useful.
Deaf not handicapped because they cannot read or write, since most of the population was
Visual “education”: encouraged the development of signs and symbols: body symbolism such as
clothes, colors, objects, movements, body language and movements, hand gestures--all in
texts and paintings, etc.


Antiquity had no institutions for the care of disabled or indigent persons.

Early Christian era saw only scattered hospices and asylums established across Europe beginning
in the fourth century.
Early medieval society made no attempt to conceal the insane and the mental defectives from
public view; they were a visible part of everyday society.
Community attitudes toward these individuals were a compound of fear and contempt,
sometimes mingled with an element of compassion.
Beginning in the 17th century, society have had enough of them, and established institutions, that
served to satisfy society’s need to protect itself against the harm of the deviants, the
defectives, and the dependent person incurred on society (physically, intellectually, and
socially deviants).
These are unlike the monasteries and hospices that arose to save disabled persons from a vile
Some disabled placed in lunatic hospitals, along with the socially rejects like beggars,
vagrants, etc., and received callous treatment.
The Hospital of St. Mary of Bethlehem in London, or the “Bedlam,” established in 1247.
In 1630 The Bicetre, which is the chateau of Vincent de Paul, housed the homeless, the
outcasts, and the feeble in Paris.).
A practice of public demonstrations under various contexts for the purpose of raising
funds, to titillate the public, or to illustrate the potential rationality of the disabled
persisted until the close of the 19th century.

Until the renaissance encouraged pedagogical and medical experimentation on deaf people,
premodern societies seem generally to have ignored deaf members and left them to get along
in their families and isolated rural communities as best as they could. Although there may be
isolated instances in the past, only since the Renaissance have deaf people be systematically
exploited by self-described professionals seeking fame and fortune as miracle working
teachers and doctors.

The general population density never reached the critical threshold for the formation of deaf
communities until the eighteenth century. Communication among the deaf and between the
deaf and the hearing would have been, of necessity, sublinguistic or protolinguistic,
consisting, that is, of gesture, mime, and context-dependent protolanguage.
The Spread of Islam, 600-1400

The Koran (6:3 9)

Rhazes (850-920)

The Book of Simple Medicine, and the Al-Hawi (The Virtuous Life, Continens Liber)
(No English translation.)
Deafness was defined in three categories
impairment (biological; deaf)
curtailment (accidents/social; deafened, hard of hearing)
complete loss (profoundly deaf, born deaf).
believed that congenital hearing loss is curable if treatment begins within the first two
years of its occurrence/onset.

Avicenna (Ibn Sina) (980-1037)

Canon of Medicine
(No English translation.)
Treated causes of diseases based on theory of Galen (ancient Greek physician).

De Anima (12th century).

(No English translation.)
Talked about treatments and anatomy of the human ear.
Problem is few people familiar with gestures, not gestures per se.
Social terms.
Medical texts remedies for deafness: noise, liquids, bloodletting, foods (honey).

Rycant (1668)
The Present State of the Ottoman Empire
reported some deaf people in harems in the Ottoman Empire.
The Renaissance, 1400-1500

Renaissance times (since 1450s).

The Re-Awakening (AD 1400-1500).
14th century = reawakening and redevelopment of science, education, and culture.
The Reformation re-emphasized the individual’s responsibility for his own salvation through
knowledge as well as faith.
The Renaissance
was primarily an Italian experience
began in the 14th century
reached its height in the 15th and the 16th centuries.
With the movement arose a new interest in humanistic principles, individuality, learning, and
the secular arts.
Focused on the human body and the development of more sophisticated surgery and medical
practices, starting with the dissection of the human body.

Invented the movable print type 1450s
led to the wider dissemination of knowledge and a surge in the spread of literacy.
Thus books proliferated down from the elites to the common people.
The shift in language of literati from Latin to the vernacular language.
The Birth of the Gutenberg’s Universe and the Modern Times.

Rise of cities—deaf congregate and form and develop sign languages.

The Arts and Letters

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519),

Treatise on Painting, and also Codice Atlantico (circa 1499)
The Percepts of the Painter chapter
Of the Parts of the Face section
Mentioned deafness in his writings
That deaf do sign with each other
That some deaf can lipread hearing people.
Wrote about gestural communication of the deaf
Painters should learn from them.
Saw a man deafened by accident who can lipread though cannot hear.
To be educated, one needs to study and imitate mute’s speech, movements of hands, eyes,
eyebrows, and body.
Studied with da Vinci
Painted La Muta = Mona Lisa?

Many deaf were artists, seeing and painting art with forms or expressions of communication.
Bernandino d’Betto Biagi (1454-1513) was a deaf artist.
Studied with Raphael (1483-1520).
painted frescos in the hermitage of Notre Dame in Prado, Spain
Hercule Sarti of Italy (circa 1598)
Hendrick van Campen (1585-1634).
Jaime Lopez of Spain (16th century)

El Mundo (Juan Fernandez Ximenes de Navarette) (1526-1579)

an artist and painter, who became deafened at age 3.
Student and disciple of painter Titian in Italy.
Painted at the Escorial for King Philip II of Spain in 1568:
Baptism of Christ
The Burial of Lazerus
The Nativity
The Holy Family
The Matyrdom of Saint James
The Assumption.
Completed 8 out of the commissioned 32 paintings.
Communicated with King Philip II through gestures and signs; they became friends.

Rudolph Agricola (Roelof Huysman) (born 1443)

De Inventione Dialectica (1538)

(No English translation.)
He observed deaf to write thoughts.
Deaf Writers of the Renaissance Era

Pierre de Ronsard (b. 1524)

Became deaf at age 16
Writer of literature and poetry
Apprenticed as page to the Dauphin, the King’s eldest son (Frances I).
Became poet and writer after deafened at age 16 by fever and ear infection, and quitted
career of soldier and diplomat.
His writing contained nothing on deafness but followed the romantic patterns of his day,
extolling the beauties and virtues of peoples who caught his fancy, both historic
and contemporary.

Joachim du Bellay (1522-1560)

Contemporaneous with de Ronard.
Also late-deafened, but not as productive due to recurrent ear infections.
Wrote a poem in 1592 expressing grief at own deafness.
Divers Jeux Rustiques and Ronsard, If You Would Hold Your Own in Court,
in honor of de Ronsard. (No English translation.)
Became cheerful in poems after met de Ronsard

Other Literature

Montaigne (1537-1592).
Wrote about gestural communication and of deaf mutes signing arguments,
debates, stories.
Described head and hand movements, eyebrows and shoulders, finger alphabets,
gestural grammars.

Le Tiers Livre
wrote of comic ambiguities of the form of communication.
Characters: Nazdecabre and Panurge (through Pantagruel who served as learned guide)
used gestures developed in religious orders and conversation laced with buffoonery.

The Decameron mentioned the same observations as Rebalias.

Girolamo Cardan (1501-1576)

Book 3, Chapter 8, ‘De sordo et muto literas edocto” (in ‘De Surditate’)
(No English translation.)
Used Agricola’s report and added that deaf can be taught to read and write.
Wrote of the ability of the deaf to reason
Proposed measures for special education.
Disregarded Aristotelian imperatives and adopted principles of empirical
psychology that later characterize John Locke a century later.
Saw the true relationship among the senses.
Held that the instruction of the deaf is difficult but possible, by writing which is
associated with speech and speech with thought, so written characters and
ideas may be connected without the intervention of sound.
Elaborated a sort of raised print code for the use of deaf people but he did not
essay a practical application of his theories. Developed a kind of code (letters
and pictures) for teaching the deaf to read and write, though he had not put it
into practice.
Believed that hearing and speech are not essential to understanding ideas; one can
use gestures and signs.

Girolamo Aquapendente
wrote two treatises in 1600 and 1603.
He wrote that pantomime was practiced in Italy since ancient Rome are not the same as the
deaf's signs.
One need training in signs to be able to communicate with the deaf
Deafness is not the same as mutism.
There is no cure for congenital and postnatal deafness.
The deaf should receive an education.

A Venetian medical text (1557)

Explained reasons for a boy’s deafness, which showed muddled thinking on deafness.

Gabriello Fallopio (1523-1562)

described the bony labyrinth of the ear

Bartolommeo Eustachio (1524?-1574)

identified the tensor tympani muscle and the Eustachian tube.
Solomon Alberti (1591)
Discourse on Deafness and Speechlessness.
First book on deafness.
Hearing and speech are separate functions, and do not share same nervous system to the
brain, having coming from different pathways.
Thus, deaf can think and be rational in the absence of speech.
Met deaf who can lipread mouth-based speech.
Knew some deaf.
He represented a breakthrough from Aristotlean (based on Hippocrates) belief of the
same organ for both speaking and hearing.

Philip Camerarius (16th century)

Wrote of same observations as Alberti.
Some deaf are more talented than the hearing.
The deaf did signed (gestures) or write or lipread.

Finger Alphabets

Giovanni Battista della Porta (1563)

De furtivis literarum notis (Of secret letters of the alphabet).
Finger alphabets matched with parts of body and used for private conversation.

Cosmas Rosselius
Thesaurus artificiosae memoriae (A Treasury of Artificial Memory Techniques)
Finger alphabets used to aid in memory, as a mnemonic tool.
The Beginnings of Education of the Deaf, 1500-1800

National leadership in education of the deaf related to political, economic, cultural, and military

One nation which is dominant spread educational ideas for the deaf throughout other nations.
There are overlaps among nations, though.

1500s-1600s: Spain
1600s: The Netherlands
1600s-1800s: Great Britain: British method.
1700s-1800s: France: French Method.
1700s-1800s: Germany: German method.
1800s-1900s: The United States.
Spain: 1500s-1600s

Fray Vincente de Santo Domingo.

Taught a deaf person Fernando Navarette drawing, also known as El Mudo.
El Mudo (1526-1579) was the first educated deaf person.
He knows signs, can read and write, were literate in history and Scriptures, and a
well-known painter.
He remained mute; cannot speak.

St. Benedict
a Cisterian brotherhood near Naples, started in 529 AD.
Benedictine signs originated in the Mediterrian area among hearing people in Naples
the center of gestural and sign communication in Europe.
The Cisterian monks’ fingerspelling system was picked up by the deaf who interacted
with the monks who spread out to other deaf people in France, and then to the U.S.

Melchor de Yebra.
Yebra did not invent the signs, but made them on paper.
1592: Libro Llamado Refugium Infirmorum (The book entitled the Refuge of the
sick). (No English translation.)
An Alphabet of St. Bonaventure is included.
Abecedarium (ABC book). (no English translation.)
Used for communication with the sick and the dying.
Suggestions for use with the very hard of hearing (not the deaf and dumb because
they cannot read).
Mentioned its usefulness for the deaf via a dying deaf person and suggests their use
by the deaf.
Observed that there were deaf people signing to each other in 16th century Spain.
De Velasco
Education of the deaf, in recorded history, began with the de Velasco family.
There were deaf members of the de Velasco family
Each were taught by respective teachers from the Cisterian monastery of the
Order of St. Benedict in the San Salvador of Ona area.
Juan’s son Indigo, who was hearing, begat deaf brothers Pedro and Francisco and
a sister.
Francisco begat deaf Luis.
Ponce taught Juan and the two sons Pedro and Francisco.
Bonet and Carrion taught Luis.
• Cervates (1546-1616) wrote a story about Luis de Velasco in 1613.
Pedro Ponce de Leon (1520-1584)
Established a school at the monastery in Valladolid
Tutored deaf children of Spanish nobility, esp. Juan Hernandez, Francisco, and Pedro de
Pedro studied history, reading, writing, speech, Spanish, Latin, and received Papal
dispensation to be ordained as a priest.
Method: writing is coupled with reading to aid in speech training.
His teaching went from showing fingers to refer to objects, and then teach speech.
Used signs and writing and speech in religion, Greek, Latin, Italian, math,
physics, and astronomy subjects.
Other reports, by Covarrubias, a physician to King Philip IV, in his writings, tells that
Ponce began with reading and writing, and then move to speech, using manual
alphabet. Used paintings and gestures at first.
Ponce used conventional signs used by his monastery brothers monks to teaching deaf
Ponce left materials on teaching, possibly read by Bonet.
Ponce also taught two of three de Velasco sisters in 12 other deaf people, mostly from
Spanish aristocracy.

Bonet (1579?-1633)
Reduccion de las letras y arte para ensenar a ablar los mudos (The
Simplification of the Letters of the Alphabet and Method of Teaching
Deaf-Mutes to Speak, also known as Method of Teaching Deaf Mutes to
Speak) (1620).
Adopted Yebra’s fingerspelling system and reproduced in his book which is the earliest
volume about deaf education pedagogical methods.
The book did not discuss sign language.
Lipreading needs no teaching.
Not teach sign language, but the object is to teach oral language, using fingerspelling as a
means of teaching a deaf child to speak, read, and write Spanish and be integrated
into Spanish society.
Hearing people interacting with deaf should learn fingerspelling, but the deaf ought to
learn how to speak with hearing people, and be integrated into hearing.society.
Teach from writing, fingerspelling, and speech from letters (sounds), to simple words,
and then speech letters and words, with gestures, and then to phrases, then, if
possible, move on to complex ideas.
Used for communication with the deaf
Used with speech therapy for deaf youths.
Suggested hearing people speak to deaf with mouths wide open. Should not and can not
teach how to lipread, since it is too inexact to be teachable. People move lips
differently for same sound to produce same effect auditorally. Deaf people develop
own techniques to lipread.
Families with deaf youths must fingerspell with the deaf.
Rejected artificial amplification systems and methods.
Stressed early articulatory training (begin at early age), on one to one basis since it is the
most effective, but after signs such as fingerspelling are learnt.
Training moved from alphabets to letter pairs to words (from concrete nouns to abstract
nouns) to phrases to sentences
Focus on pronounciation, not meaning, and de-emphasized speechreading since it cannot
be taught.
Reported that when two deaf strangers meet, they signed using “some signs,” which
might suggest the existence of deaf society. Bonet reported interninglings between the
deaf people via signs.

Ramirez de Carrion.
A teacher of Luis.
Adopted Bonet’s method.
Carrion was secretive of his methods, even though they were revealed by Luis.
Carrion wrote a book, Natural Wonders (1629). (No English translation.)
Described his attempts, but not revealed his methods, with Luis and de Priego.
Carrion also worked with other students, such as Prince Emmanuel of Savoy, the Marquiz de
Piego, and Luis de Velasco, who was a favorite of King Henry LV who appointed him as
the first Marquiz de Frenzo.
Carrion tried “alchemist” medical cures for deafness with oils, ointments, saltpeter, brandy,
naphtha., etc. --so to “help” deaf get voice and speak.

Spain’s Impact.
Spaniards successful in tutoring deaf children of noble families. This news spread
everywhere in Europe.
The Age of Enlightenment: Leading Philosophers and Their Influences on
Deaf Education.

Question philosophers faced: What makes us human?

It is language.
But in what way do they become human via language?

John Locke (1632-1704)
Essay Concerning Human Understanding
There is no natural connection between the spoken word and the idea to which it
But sound is for him the naturalistic, involuntary, and easiest means.
Focused on “human understanding.”
Ideas precede signs.
He influenced British and German oralism.

Thomas Hobbes wrote Levithan (chapters 1, 4, 5, 6, and 8).

J.J. Rousseau (1712-1778)
Argued that man is noble savage; he needed education and sense training.
Substitutibility of one sense (ex. touch) for another (ex. hearing).
On the Origin of Language
Sign language is equal to speech in terms of the abilities to establish societies,
institute laws, to establish commerce, invent arts, etc.
Sounds convey enough thoughts and emotions or feelings
Gestures can do better job of such thoughts and feelings.
Gestures stand between physical language and the language of the passions,
between gesture and speech, and between nature and culture.
On the Origin of Inequality (pages 47-72, 79).
He discussed about the various abilities and weakenesses within the human
population that set them towards certain aspects of work and participation in
He influenced Pereire.

D. Diderot (1713-1784)
Encyclopedia of Natural Sciences and Art and Lettre sur les sourd-
Argued that sensations is the means of building ideas, and from ideas to knowledge.
Speech itself is just a representation of the state of the soul, and the sign language can
be language.

On Sensations and Essay on Human Knowledge
Argued that knowledge comes from experience; ideas are built from sensation.
Deaf people can have abstract ideas. Thought is to mind as action is to body.
Rene Descartes
Wrote about deafness and deaf people in his books
Discourse on Methods (Volume 1, page 140, 151)
Treatise on Passions
All French philosophers influenced French school of manualism.

Leibniz (1646-1716)
Philosophical Essays (page 8)
Coined the idea of an universal language, like mathematics.

Immanual Kant (1724-1804)

Anthropology (pages 9, 34).
Contained views on deafness and deaf people.
Great Britain: 1600s-1700s

Sir Kenelm Digby (1623)

Treatise on the Nature of Bodies (1623)
Reports of impressions that the deaf can speak existed since Biblical times--of various
reliability and verifications.
Also, sign language also similarly reported (as oratory, pictures, signs, non-spoken
Of bodies, and of man’s soul (1669)
Met a deaf nobleman, Don Luis De Velasco and was impressed with his oral skills
(speaking and lipreading).
Digby influenced the work of Bulwer.
Passed information to John Wallis.

The Royal Society of London

Members included William Holder, George Delgarno, John Bulwer, and John Wallis.
They published books that were chiefly philosophical treatises concerning the nature of
language that contained elaborate analyses of the different elements of speech.
The teaching of deaf people was used to illustrate the new theories.

John Bulwer
Philocophus, or the Deafe and Dumbe Man’s Friend (1648)
Studied and used signs, and advocated its use as natural language of the deaf.
Believed in using one sense for another, to hear with own eyes via lipreading, “lip
Admired the deaf's ability to do so.
Attempted to connect between speech and hearing.
Chirologia; or the Naturalle Language of the Hand (1654).
A treatise on the natural language of the hand.
Manual gestures were a universal character of reason, comprehensible to all
peoples without teaching, since it is the only speech that is natural to man.
Gestures as universal language and as the vice regent of the tongue.
Wrote of ways to have deaf people overcome this disability, rejected the
Hippocratic dictum that speech and hearing share a common brain site, and
emphasized the value of lipreading and hear the words through own eyes.

The Life and Adventures of Mr. Duncan (1720).
Spoke of deaf person who can read and write and the pedagogy of John Wallis.
The “Oxford School”. 17th century, between 1650s-1660s.
Sir William Holder (1616-1698)
Elements of Speech. (1669)
Taught speech to Alexander Popham
Began with meanings of a word, words, and sounds with lipreading and speech,
and also taught speechreading.
Taught deaf students through the use of finger alphabet and stylized signs.
Recognized that deafened were better speech producers than congenital deaf and,
like Spaniards, taught writing then speech, using two-handed manualism.

John Wallis (1618-1703)

Taught Daniel Whabey
Relied on instruction in written language than used signs for speech like hand
alphabet designed by Dalgarno.
Presented him before the Royal Society to demonstrate his speech ability.
De loquela (“On speech’) (1653), and a Letter to Robert Boyle, Esq. (1670).
The first book described the organs of speech and the nature of voice and a
detailed analysis of the phonetic elements of English prononication useful for
foreigners and deaf people.
Recognized that the deaf can converse through gestures much as people speak.
Proposed the deaf to learn the English language by writing, since it is a miserable
condition for deaf people to be imprisoned in their own deafness.

George Delgarno (1628-1687)

Didascalocophus; or the Deaf and Dumb Man’s Tutor (1680).
A manual on how to teach speech, reading, and writing to the deaf.
Advocated natural language acquisition, and the use of two-handed fingerspelling
to teach language.
Natural language learning, not contrived or artificial.
Invented his own finger alphabet system, touch alphabet, for use with the deaf,
during periods of silence, secrecy, amusement, and for helping young children
learn to read.
A precursor of today’s two-handed alphabet system of the British deaf.
Never taught deaf.
Emphasized that deaf has potential to learning equal to hearing.

An anonymous author
Digiti Lingua (1698)
Added other iconic handshapes to Delgarno’s system to assist in distinguishing
Encouraged mothers and nurses to communicate via signs and speech to deaf
Henry Baker (1698-1774).
Established the first school for the deaf in Great Britain
Very selective; private, small school.
Took on pupils in 1720.
Taught reading, writing, speech, and language.
Never divulged methods.
School died with him.
Jane Forester was Baker’s first pupil.
He became a visiting teacher and lived with his pupils, having no school of his own.
Very secretive methods and extracted securities from pupils not to reveal.

Thomas Braidwood (1715-1806)

The first of three generations of leading educators of the deaf.
With son-in-law and nephew John Braidwood, established deaf school in Edinburgh in
1760, and the institution came under University system in 1767.
Work carried by John’s widow and nephew Joseph Watson. Relatives of Braidwood
worked together.
Braidwood kept methods a family secret; revealing only for a fee.
Later published by Francis Green, a Bostonian whose son enrolled in Braidwood’s
school, described his son’s education.

Joseph Watson (1765-1829)

Braidwood's nephew
Established the first nonprivate school for the indigent deaf in London in 1809.
Published Braidwood's method in 1809, incorporated two-handed alphabet, gestures, and
natural signs, and reading and writing; and elemental speech training, from phonemes
to syllables and words.
Two-handed manual alphabet spread from Holder to Delgardo to Melville Bell,
AGB’s dad (who invented lettered glove).
Thus, teachers are no longer burdened with mysteries and could exercise their skills
pragmatically (pedagogical) and eclectically.
The Netherlands

Anthony Deusing, of Groningen, The Netherlands,

The Deaf and Dumb Man’s Discourse (1656).
Respect for deaf people’s signs as communicative process, and deaf use signs in lieu
of speech to convey or conceive the sentiments of others’ minds.--had personal
observations of deaf people.
Deaf who used signs, he reported, tend to be originally deaf and dumb~born deaf or
became so before they could speak.
Signs are often associated by “motions of the body,” such as facial expressions and
body movements, like ASL.
Also reported, seen, and accounted that the deaf can lipread well, had married hearing
people, and had interpreters (by friends, spouses, relatives, etc., not professional
interpreters because none existed as a profession).
Wrote that sign language is not like spoken language and must be learned, and used
with group contexts.
Signs are not necessarily iconic, as much as spoken language. Sign language varied
across nations, and is not universal.

Johann Konrad Amman (1669-1724)

Surdus loquens (The Talking Deaf Man) (1694) and Dissertatio de loquela (A
Dissertation on Speech) (1700).
Drew anatomy of vocal chords, hearing apparatus, and the like, and their nerve
pathways to the brain, thus seeing them as not coming from a common origin.
Speech is the only means for the expression of language, and favored oral
methodologies for the cultivation of the intellect.
Signs will affect the acquisition of speech since it is base and deficient.
Teach articulation the use of touch and mirror, teaching the vowels first.
Endeavored to maintain the primacy of spoken language.
Revealed little of his methods in these books, only his philosophy.
Could not cure deafness of a deaf child,
Instead, developed techniques to teach speech (articulation)
Need to realize value of words in initiating thought and action.

Franciscus Mercurius van Helmont (1614?-1699)

Believed that Hebrew was the natural language of humanity
The shape and character of each letter of the alphabet in Hebrew conformed to the
position of the organs of speech when making the sound.
Instructed deaf students in Hebrew.
Their progress in language is unknown.
France: 1700s

Etienne de Fay (1669-1745?)

A deaf man.
He was placed in the Abbey of Saint-Jean d’Amiens when he was five years old.
The Abbey was run by the Premontres monks.
He was taught reading, writing, arithmetic, geometry, mechanics, drawing,
architecture, holy and profane history, and French language.
Taught another deaf person.
Taught Azy d’Etavigny for seven years.
Communicated through signs and educated several deaf students using signs and
Pereire took over in 1746.
Skilled architect, drew, among others, the Library of the Abbey.
Also a sculptor, librarian, and procurator.
Lived in the abbey almost all his 70 years of life.

Jacob Rodriguez Pereire (1715-1790)

Has a deaf sister
Became interested in the deaf
Read and followed the writings of Amman.
Picked up instruction of Azy d’Etavigny after de Fay.
Taught several deaf students, most noted were d’Etavigeny and Samboreux de Fortenay.
De Fortenay had partial deafness.
Showed that deaf can learn how to read, pronounce, understand words, and learn abstract
notions, etc., using the manual alphabet and lipreading.
Though Pereire kept his methods a secret.
De Fortenay revealed the secret.
Pereire used one-handed manual alphabet to teach speech, relied on a ‘natural”
approach to the development of language, developed auditory training procedures
for those with residual hearing, and utilized special exercises involving sight and
touch in sense training.
The Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture, a French school of painting.
For the Moderns, the Royal Academy theory that painting was gestures, as
“dumb/silent painting.”
Du Fresnoy
On the art of painting (1668)
Painting is imitation of sign language and the affinity between the visual
language of the deaf mute and silent artwork.
Antoine Coypel
First Painter and Director of the Academy
Suggested in 1718 in his Proceedings of the Conference of the
Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture, published in 1721,
that painting follows gestures and actions (by mutes) to communicate on
Produced artwork titled the Medee et Jason in 1715, Cleopatre
avalant le poison in 1749, and Armide shown with the intention of
stabbing Panaud in his sleep (n.d.).
If the deaf likes art work with gestures, then the art work is successful.
Gestures and signs as oratory in paintings.
Artists and critics used deafness to conceptualize painting.
The birth of Modernism: “perfectibility of mankind.”

Antoine Coypel
Interaction of gesture, painting, and theatre.
Le sourd as character in short comedies in 16th century Rouen, France.
Deafness as metaphor
Gestures were used to capture the public’s attention.
Jean de Bigot Palaprat (1650-1721) and David-Augustin de Bruey
produced a play called Le muet.

Abbe Charles Michael de l’Epee (1712-1789)

Charles Michael Abbe de I’Epee who were first a Jansenist priest and then a barrister.
In his 60s years of age, he met two deaf signing sisters in a poor district of Paris; wanted
to save their souls for the Church.
Thought sign language as universal language.
Learned sign language from the sisters and taught them written French.
Sees signs as a means of salvation of souls for the Church.
Established the world’s first public school for the deaf in Paris in 1755 in an abbey.
The school became the National Institute (INJS) in 1791.
Undertook the religious instruction with deaf children, and developed own system of
Used sign language (old FSL by students) since he believed it is the natural language
of the deaf.
De-emphasized the teaching of speech; it is not for him important to intellectual or
spiritual concerns.
Developed “methodical” signs to supplement the natural sign language; “methodical”
signs incorporated French vocabulary, French syntax, and French morphology.
He taught grammar to deaf (letters, word classes such as nouns, adjectives, then to
numbers, tense, voice, and then to sentences, and then to passages).
He constructed a series of methodical signs for grammatical constructions through
accompaniment with French sign language vocabulary, and was held to replicate
the process of speech.
As reported by a deaf author named Pierre Desloges, who were a student, that they
learn written French as a foreign language using FSL as first language.
Students then introduced French into their sign language.
Students from the Epee school were highly literate and educated.
Instruction of Deaf and Dumb by Means of Methodical Signs (1776).
All knowledge comes from the senses.
Shown that the deaf were capable to learn grammar and metaphysics. Thus, the deaf
know things via visual means. Thus, let them use sign language
The notion of the unitary body is rejected and believed that knowledge comes from
senses but in a piece-by-piece fashion through the eyes, not ears.
Suggested using painting as a technique, since it is “mute art,” studying gestures-
faces-spectator connections. Painting and sign language speak to the eyes,
from meanings into beauty and grammar: language of action and language of
sounds share same underlying, and generates principles of meaning.
Epee had methods developed: views sisters’ sign language as semantic content
then add grammatical constructions. Connected painting and writing.
Own student Abee Stark opened Austria’s first school for the deaf in Vienna in 1789.

Abbe Roch Ambroise Sicard (1742-1822)

Succeeded l’Epee in 1790.
Continued the work of de ltEpee on the methodical signs, writing, and the manual
Theory of Signs (1782).
Trend is toward reliance on natural signs, since methodical signs slowed down
learning since have to sign mood, tense, number, gender, etc.

Roch Ambroise Augusta Bebian (1789-1839)

Succeeded Sicard.
He completed the transition to manual signs and the manual alphabet.
The Directory, with Napoleon, in 1790.
The National Institutes for the Deaf established in Paris in 1791 and later
in Bordeux.
Paternalism, through Sicard (1789).
Deaf signs as mimickry to ideas, not same as speech.
The Board changed and had Bebian in 1820s and de Gernardo in 1830s.
Changed to oralist philosophies and pedagogies.
In 1838, France duplicated “rational persons” and established asylum system.

The French Revolution, 1792-1795.

Revolutionaries made the notion of social welfare their central plan for a new state.
Revolutionaries took census of the deaf in 1793.
They made public policy based on 18th century Enlightenment, the philosophers who
believed in the perfectibility of humankind.
The alleviation of misery and poverty of the populace.
The Comite des Secours Publics provided funds for the poor, etc., as a
form of public assistance.
They supported the indigent.

Parisian Deaf Community.

Pierre Desloges
Observations d’un sourd et muet sur ‘Un Cours elementaire
d’eduction des sourds et muets’ publie en 1779 par M. l’abbe
Deschamps (1779).
Attacked Deschamps, another deaf person taught by Pereire and who favored
Described the conditions of the deaf in Paris.
The pupils can enter schools if they were between the ages of 10 to 16, for up
to 5 years.
Very few of the deaf get into deaf schools.
Those that got in through support from the national government to
improve their economic conditions, and their parents.
Socioeconomic conditions of the poor deaf reflected as socioeconomic
structure of deaf pupils in deaf schools.
Deaf people were mostly indigent and lived in poverty.
Most Parisian deaf hailed from working classes.
Most indigent deaf worked as beggars, semiskilled laborers as carpenters
and weavers, and child labor. Rarely there were deaf who supported
Many deaf people were under public assistance, approaching 90 per cent
of the total deaf.
Deaf people were abondoned in asylums or isolated somewhere in the
Desloges was a student of Epee.
He became deaf at age of seven, and learned sign language from an illiterate
Italian servant that were used by the Parisian deaf community at the age of 27.
Desloges hailed from lower classes

Comite de Sourdes-Muets (Deaf Mute Committee) (1834)

Berthier and 10 other men met and founded the Committee.
Deaf Mute Banquet.
November 1834.
The first annual banquet in honor of Epee.
Participants: deaf mutes from various institutes, countries, and professions.
Some hearing guests were also invited to speak at every banquet.
Journalists and outstanding personalities from the world of politics, at, and
The banquets became festivals of ‘mimicry,” of signs, where signs were performed
and celebrated. The banquets had religious quality, centered on liberation and
progress, with Berthier as “pope” and Epee as “Spiritual father.
Started the French Deaf movement.
Before: the deaf were in ignorance, oppression, darkness, pariahs.
Now: now they were one people, one nation, striving to achieve mastery in art,
literature and science and to obtain their civil rights.
Italy: 1700s

Lana Terzi
A Jusuit priest
The Prodrome of the Master Art (1670).
Speech teaching with positions on vocal apparatus shown to deaf to emit sounds that
correspond with the letters of the alphabet, then teach how to speak words
corresponding to objects.
Never taught the deaf.

Tommaso Silvestri (d. 1789)

In 1783, he was sent to Paris to study under l’Epee.
In 1784, he established a school for the deaf in Rome, using Paris’ methods.
On The Way To Quickly Instruct And Teach Speech To People Who Are
Deaf Before Birth (1789).
Described the use of l’Epee’s manualist method in the Rome school.
Read Amman’s work later and dropped manualism and favored oralism.

Abbe Benedetto Cozzolino (1788)

Opened a second school for the deaf in Naples.
Studied with Silverstri in Rome and applied his methods.

Abbe Ottavio Arsarotti (b.1753-d.?).

Well-versed in sign language used by the deaf people in Genoa, and used in school with
French signs if there was no Italian sign for something.
Opened a third deaf school in Genoa in 1802, and favored manualism.
The Genoa school became an Institute under Napoleon I.
It was for residential and day students.
He left no method; it was idiosyncratic and child-centered in the nature and needs of
Begun with known information and moving on to unknown information, using
analysis and syntheses, in teaching thinking strategies.
Invented Italian manual alphabet system that is in use today, utilizing parts of body.
Teach reading and writing through signs and alphabets.
Taught speech to those having residual hearing.
Left no traces in writing on his philosophy and methods.
Germany: 1700s-1800s

Samuel Heinicke (1729-1784), the originator of the “German Method."

Influenced by Amman.
He served as private tutor and teacher of the deaf in several German cities.
Taught speech to two deaf brothers of his wife from 1758-1778, in his little school home
in Eppendorf.
At the invitation of the elector of Saxony, Heinicke established a school in Leipzig in
Later under University system, called the Deaf-Mute Institute.
Free tutor to the poor deaf, fees for the rich deaf.
His wife Anna took over for almost 40 years.
His family and successors failed to carry out his plan.
He was secretive about the specific techniques he employed.
Revealed his methods in a letter to de I’Epee: methods built on articulate and vocal
language and upon taste which supplies the place of hearing.
Opposed to methodical signs but not to natural signs and the manual alphabet.
Thought is only possible through speech.
Teach speech first, the teach “letters”--i.e. reading and writing.
The Arcanum
Revealed fully generations later by force of University action.
A secret book on teaching methods.
Teach by taste.

John Baptist Graser (1766-1841)

Expanded the “German (oral) method to deaf education in Germany.
Put it into practice for common schools:
All teachers were instructed in deaf education so that they prepare deaf students for
integration into regular classes with hearing children.
Later on, deaf children left common schools due to difficulties in making academic
Believed that signs and institutions for the deaf hindered the education of the deaf.

Frederick Marity Hill (1805-1874)

Also carried out and expanded the “German method” to deaf children in Germany
Applied Pertolozzi’s principle:
Learning language like hearing children via “natural” means,
Using speech and deaf-hearing interactions
Not using signs except for infants and very young children.
Used charts, pictures, activities, and special readers, i.e., everyday or daily
activities of life, not through structured lessons.