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Gallaudet, Thomas Hopkins

GALLAUDET, THOMAS HOPKINS (1787-1851), American educator of the deaf and dumb, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, of French Huguenot ancestry, on the 10th of December 1787. He graduated at Yale in 1805, where he was a tutor from 1808 to 1810. Subsequently he studied theology at Andover, and was licensed to preach in 1814, but having determined to abandon the ministry and devote his life to the education of deaf mutes, he visited Europe in 1815-1816, and studied the methods of the abbé Sicard in Paris, and of Thomas Braidwood (1715-1806) and his successor Joseph Watson (1765-1829) in Great Britain. Returning to the United States in 1816, he established at Hartford, Connecticut, with the aid of Laurent Clerc (1785-1869), a deaf mute assistant of the abbé Sicard, a school for deaf mutes, in support of which Congress, largely through the influence of Henry Clay, made a land grant, and which Gallaudet presided over with great success until ill-health compelled him to retire in 1830. It was the first institution of the sort in the United States, and served as a model for institutions which were subsequently established. He died at Hartford, Connecticut, on the 5th of September 1851.

There are three accounts of his life, one by Henry Barnard, Life, Character and Services of the Rev. Thomas H. Gallaudet (Hartford, 1852); another by Herman Humphrey (Hartford, 1858), and a third (and the best one) by his son Edward Miner Gallaudet (1888).

His son, Thomas Gallaudet (1822-1902), after graduating at Trinity College in 1842, entered the Protestant Episcopal ministry, settled in New York City, and there in 1852 organized St Anne's Episcopal church, where he conducted services for deaf mutes. In 1872 he organized and became general manager of the Church mission to deaf mutes, and in 1885 founded the Gallaudet home for deaf mutes, particularly the aged, at Wappingers Falls, near Poughkeepsie, New York.

Another son, Edward Miner Gallaudet (b. 1837), was born at Hartford, Connecticut, on the 3rd of February 1837, and graduated at Trinity College in 1856. After teaching for a year in the institution for deaf mutes founded by his father at Hartford, he removed with his mother, Sophia Fowler Gallaudet (1798-1877), to Washington, D.C., where at the request of Amos Kendall (1789-1869), its founder, he organized and took charge of the Columbia Institution for the deaf and dumb, which received support from the government, and of which he became president. This institution was the first to furnish actual collegiate education for deaf mutes (in 1864 it acquired the right to grant degrees), and was successful from the start. The Gallaudet College (founded in 1864 as the National Deaf Mute College and renamed in 1893 in honour of Thomas H. Gallaudet) and the Kendall School are separate departments of this institution, under independent faculties (each headed by Gallaudet), but under the management of one board of directors.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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