by Lisa Ann
I have always been interested in sign language and was excited to find out more about how to sign, as well as, the history of its development. I was amazed at how little I knew and realized I had not heard of half of these remarkable people in all the years of my schooling. After reading and doing some research, it is quite difficult to choose just one since there are so many accomplished deaf citizens.
If choosing just one person is the assignment, then I must choose Reverend Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet. I found him quite interesting because he was on his own path before finding “His” path. Reverend Gallaudet had his hopes set on becoming a professional minister, after an amazing achievement of graduating from Yale University with his bachelor’s degree at seventeen, then earning his Master’s degree three years later and finally finishing seminary. Everything changed for Reverend Gallaudet when he met his neighbor’s young deaf daughter, Alice Cogswell. He was then inspired to travel to another continent to learn more on how to educate those who were hearing impaired.
While in Europe, the Reverend met those unwilling to help him but soon met Abbe Sicard who invited him to the Institution Nationale des Sourds-Muets à Paris and learn from two of their faculty members, Laurent Clerc and Jean Massieu, about manual sign language and its methodology. He then returned home to New England and with the aide of private and public funds, he created a school for the deaf which later became known as the American School for the Deaf.
I think the actions of Reverend Gallaudet were groundbreaking and quite extraordinary and to think it all began with a meeting of one remarkable young girl who put this man of God on the path he was meant to be on.