Francis Maginn and the BDA 125th Anniversay

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 24 July 2015

The British Deaf Association is 125 years old, having had its inaugural meeting as the British Deaf and Dumb Association, in Leeds on the 24th of July, 1890.  Here is the Deaf and Dumb Times Supplement with the programme – BDDA Inaugural Conference 1890 (British Deaf and Dumb Times, Volume 2, No. 2, July 1890).  Here is the notice of the congress in the July issue:

DDT 1890 JulyMany of the founders have been mentioned in this blog over the past few years, for example Sleight and PaulMaginn photo 2but one motivating spirit we have not mentioned but who is deserving of recall, is Francis Maginn (1861-1918).  According to his obituary in Deaf Quarterly News, he was a descendant of ‘the Poet Spenser’.  Maginn, who lost his hearing due to scarlet fever aged four, became a pupil, then later teacher, at the Old Kent Road Asylum for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb Poor, London.  He was the fourth son of the Rev. C.A. Maginn of Castletowneroche, County Cork, and his uncle William Maginn was a successful journalist.  He spent some years at Gallaudet College in the U.S.A., leaving when his father was ill, then became a missioner in Cork in 1885, moving to Belfast in 1888 ‘when the mission Hall was opened in College Square North’ (ibid). He remain the missioner there for the remainder of his life.

Because of the way in which membership of the Association was allowed to include hearing people, Maginn did not get the leading position in the organisation that some consider he deserved, but became Vice-President.

He married a hearing lady, Agnes Maclean, in 1898, but they had no children.  He had a weak heart, and died on the 16th of December, 1918, aged only 57.

Certainly no man is perfect, all are human and liable to err, but it may be truly said that if Mr. Maginn erred it was on the side of humanity. Few, if any, of his colleagues would deny that his life was entirely given up to the welfare of his people, and that his own wellbeing was but a secondary consideration.

As an example of his forbearance it may be noted that in striving to settle a dispute he received a blow on the chest, from which it appears he never really rallied. Did he complain? Not a bit. Even his own wife was not aware of his having received such a blow, and it was only when he was taken seriously ill that the facts came out.

Appreciation. Deaf and Dumb Times, 1890, 1, 140. (illus)

G.E.S., Francis Maginn, An Appreciation, British Deaf Times, Vol. 16, 1919, p.27

GRANT, B. Francis Maginn (1861-1918). In Fischer, R. and Lane, H. Looking back. Signum, 1993. pp. 97-108. (portrait)

History of our Deaf and Dumb Societies: The Missions to the Adult Deaf and Dumb of Ireland, Vol.2, No.15, p.33-5 (illus)

Mr Francis Maginn,  Ephphatha, March 1896, p.44-5

Photo The Deaf and Dumb Times No.9 Vol 2, February 1891, p.115

The late Mr Francis Maginn,  Ephphatha, Spring 1919, p.542-3

The late Mr Francis Maginn, Deaf Quarterly News, no. 56, p.15-16, 1919

“he boldly invents signs for himself” – Frank Hodgkins, Deaf Amateur Actor (1859-1914)

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 17 July 2015

Frank Hodgkins (1859-1914) was very precise when he related  the age when he had lost his hearing – 15 1/2 (see census for 1911 and BDM).  Frank was born in Westminster in the summer of 1859 so that would have been in the winter of 1864/5.

His father Walter, from Bristol originally, worked as a ‘gilder and carver’ and it seems his children were all employed in skilled trades of a similar type.

Hodgkins as Poor JoIn the 1881 census Frank is not described as deaf, but as we have noted before, that is not unusual and there could be a number of reasons for it.

Hodgkins as QuilpWe are told in the BDM article by ‘Philo’, which is based on an interview, that Frank was artistic, with a love of poetry, music and art.  He was a “delicate boy, and had much trouble with his throat when young, which interfered sadly with his schooling; but he was fond of reading, and picked up writing unassisted.”  He learned his trade as an illuminator when he lost his hearing, but we are told that his heart was not in it.  In the 1911 census Frank was living in 3 Stalbridge Buildings, Lumley St, Grosvenor Square, and described himself as an “illuminator on stationary”.

Living for much of his life in Soho (the family lived at 54 Greek street for many years), it is no surprise that he was involved with St. Anne’s Church, and later with .

In the hope that the dry climate might improve his hearing, Frank went to Australia, spending time at the Institution for the Deaf and Dumb and the Blind , at Sydney, and later at the Victorian Institution.  He was back in England by 1885, and a visit to the rehearsals of Abraham’s production of Hamlet at Horn’s Assembly Rooms sparked off a role stage managing.  He became secretary of the Deaf and Dumb Cricket Club, and reorganised the St. Saviour’s Social Club, and gave elocution lessons to deaf people.

As a signer, Mr. Hodgkins is a brilliant innovator.  Rejecting all signs that do not reach his fastidious standard, he boldly invents signs for himself, which are so clear and expressive, as well as graceful, that his congregations instantly appreciate them, though they never saw them before.

Mr. Hodgkins’s grand pleasure and hobby is acting.  It is quite possible that, but for his deafness, the subject of our sketch would have been a bright ornament to the British stage.

Interviewing him on the subject, we asked him where he learned to act.
“Nowhere!” was the reply.  “Acting is as natural to me as eating and breathing.”
“Then who taught you?”
“Nobody! I have taught many, however.  Today there is travelling with his company an actor who first learned from my tuition in the lecture hall of St. Saviour’s, and played in some of my pieces.”
Many notices of Mr. Hodgkins’s performances have appeared in the London press, including The Stage, Era, Daily News, &c.  One truly says that his impersonation of “Nan” is as clever as it is amusing; another that the conception of the parts of “Quilp” and “The Marchioness” is perfect; another that his “doubling” these parts was no easy task; another that the task was one that the finest comedian would have shrank from attempting.  These are the only characters played by Mr. Hodgkins in a public hall, such as Park Hall, in Camden Town.  One paper said that were he not deaf, he would make one of the finest actors living. (BDM, 1898)

Ephphathaa for April-September 1914 says Hodgkins was gravely ill at “Friedenheim, Swiss Cottage.”  He was one of our helpers twenty-one years ago, and for many years – whether by entertaining us or by preaching – he was always forward in good works, and only failing health has caused his gradual retirement.”  The following issue has a brief notice that he died on May 9th 1914 and was buried in Highgate cemetery.

In his memoirs Gilby mentions him, rather laconically – “Mr. Frank Hodgkins would from time to time present Rough Diamond, or Good for Nothing, or some other farce, laboriously rehearsed by him with Timothy McCarthy, George Andrews, and other less distinguished performers.”

HodgkinsPhilo, A deaf Actor, Mr. Frank H. Hodgkins, British Deaf Monthly,Volume 8, No. 81, 1898, p.177-9

Ephphatha, [Our Notice Board, no.42,] no.21, 1914 p.3

Ephphatha, no.22, 1914, inside back cover

1911 Census, Class: RG14; Piece: 419

1901 Census, Class: RG13; Piece: 101; Folio: 16; Page: 24

1881 Census,  Class: RG11; Piece: 129; Folio: 15; Page: 22

Deaths Jun 1914 Hodgkins Frank 54 Hampstead 1a 673

Abdulla Iddleby/Ydlibi and the Cairo Deaf School

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 10 July 2015

Born in Manchester in 1871, Abdullah J. Iddleby was the son of an Irish mother and a Syrian father.  Because his surname was sometimes transliterated in different ways, it is not easy to track him in online records, and I have not with certainty worked out his parents’ names, but it is possible that they were an Ali Ydlibi and Rebecca Hinchey his wife, as they married in Salford registration district in 1870, the year before Abdulla[h] was born.  It is possible that Abdullah’s is the death recorded as Ali A. J. B. Ydlibi in Stockport in 1952, aged 81.  If his father was Ali Ydlibi (Ydilbi) senior, he was a British subject, born in Syria which was then a part of the Turkish Empire, and I imagine may have been involved in the Lancashire cloth trade in some way.

When he was two his parents went to Egypt, and later on he was educated at a or the British Syrian School in Beirut, where he learnt Arabic (Bayrout as the article in British Deaf-Mute (1895 has it).  It was while he was there that he lost his hearing, although he did retain some.  Later on the article, which is by one ‘Agnes’, it says that he was taught by Alexander Melville, “for the past two years” as a private pupil.  He must have been a student/teacher as he is described as having taught at Llandaff.  Our records of Llandaff are not complete and a quick look did not show his name, perhaps as it was for a period when we have no annual reports.  The peculiar thing is that Melville died in 1891, so someone is confused here.

IddlebyAbdullah, who would seem to have been from a Christian family, kept up a correspondence with missionaries in Egypt, who had said there were many Deaf people who were not being educated.  Arthur Upson from a previous blog entry, is not mentioned, but must have known Abdullah later on.School Cairo

The Nile Mission Press for 1906, Blessed be Egypt, says this –

The Class for Deaf and Dumb Boys, which we opened about two years ago, under Mr. Abdullah Iddleby, has been remarkably successful in the matter of general instruction, and the progress of the boys has been extraordinary. But the number of pupils has always been small ; the parents will not send their boys, as they do not believe until they see for themselves that such instruction is possible, and so we recently came to an arrangement with a leading Copt at Zagazig, Paris Effendi Yusef, who will provide a house, etc., and give the opportunity of trying it as a Boys School. Any friends who know of deaf and dumb boys will do well to communicate with Mr. Iddleby, c/o Paris Effendi Yusef, Zagazig.

I suspect that he taught with the combined method, which was used at Llandaff.

He worked with the Church Missionary Society, who proveded a room in in Sharia Muhamed Ali for a year and a half, with Iddleby having five pupils.  The work was supported by Lord Cromer, but when he left Egypt it ended.  He started up again with support of the Pasha (Idris Ragheb) and Egyptian authorities, in the same street, later having 13 pupils.  “His Excellency Idris Pasha is indeed a shelter in a weary land, as far as the deaf and dumb are concerned” says “Pharos” in The British Deaf Times (1909).  Clearly there was an underlying proselytizing element to these early schools, but perhaps the children were from coptic families.

There were other earlier attempts to start education for Deaf children in Egypt.  Miles (2005, see link below) says,

Volta Bureau records (1896; 1900, 1901) noted that “Schools are also reported to exist in Algiers and Syonfieh, Egypt”, and listed three teachers and 37 pupils at Algiers in 1900, 2 teachers and 6 pupils in Egypt in 1901. A Cairo source had a school for “Blind and Dumb” [= Deaf] opening in 1874 and reporting annual data for some years (Heyworth-Dunne, 1968, p. 390).

A footnote adds the following  –

Knowledge of this 19th century work now seems absent from the deaf education world in Egypt, where it is believed that the first school for the deaf was started in 1936. However, a news item “In Cairo” (1909) noted “the establishment of a school for the deaf in Cairo, where it has for three years had a prosperous existence.” A Volta Review article tells of Mme. Sémély Tsotsou founding “L’Ecole L’Espoir” (The Hope School) for 30 deaf children at Alexandria in 1934 (“A School for the Deaf in Egypt”, 1941), with photograph and details of one deaf pupil, nine-year-old Andrée, who had made good progress in speaking French. Another item in 1947 noted that Egypt had then a school for about twenty children at Cairo, a government school “being launched at Alexandria”, and a private school run by “a Greek lady, Madame Semely Tsotsou”, who was also responsible for training 15 Egyptian teachers (“The Deaf in Egypt”, 1947). One small deaf girl, Athanassia Boubouly, is pictured there with her teacher. Lababidi & El-Arabi (2002, pp. 9, 38-43, 101-103, 146-48, 176) collate useful evidence for current activities by and for deaf Egyptians, including interviews with two deaf mothers (the artist and actress Hanan Marzouk, and the Sign specialist Hanan Mohsen), some Deaf organisations, and a Deaf Theatre director. Early information on the school at Algiers has also not been readily available. A brief note in 1927 reported the installation of M. Ayrole in place of the retiring principal M. Rolland (Lamarque, 1927).

Cairo deaf schoolHow long Iddleby stayed in Egypt, I have no idea.  If anyone comes comes across him in any records, please update us below.

Abdulla[h] married Edith E Keay in Stockport in 1915, and she died in 1943.



Both those articles are based on British Deaf Mute and British Deaf Times articles.

Marriages Dec 1915  Keay Edith E and Iddleby Abdulla J S, Stockport 8a 82

Deaths Jun 1943, IDDLEBY Edith E 71 Hyde 8a 118 (for both see the Free BMD)

Deaf People Living and Communicating in African Histories, c. 960s – 1960s


The Deaf of Egypt, British Deaf Mute, 1895, p.39, vol 5 no.50

Pharos, The Deaf and Dumb of Egypt, The British Deaf Times, 1909, Vol. 6 no.65, p.97-99

Roe, WR., The deaf and dumb in Egypt, in Peeps into the Deaf World, 1917, p.204-6



“the doyen of deaf artists”, Charles Webb Moore 1848-1933

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 3 July 2015

Charles Webb Moore (1848-1933) was the son of a deaf lithographer, Isaac Moore.  His mother and all his siblings were deaf.  In fact, there were I understand, five generations of the Moore family who were Deaf.  Many of them were skilled artisans like Charles and his father.CW Moore

According to his obituary (Ephphatha, 1933) Charles was born on the 7th of April 1848, in Camden Town, and was educated at the Old Kent Road Asylum.  After training as a wood engraver, he worked for, among other periodicals, The Graphic, and the Illustrated London News, and won a silver medal at ‘the Deaf Mutes Exhibition held in London in 1885’ (I have been unable to discover more about that – if you know leave a comment below).  It seems that he painted portraits of many people associated with St. Saviour’s Church, including the Rev. Samuel Smith, Dr. Stainer, Dr. Elliott, Mr. Sleight, and Sir Arthur Fairbairn. We wonder whether these paintings survive, and if so, where they are now?

Charles married a Deaf lady, Emily Eliza Kemrik (sometimes written as Kamerick). They were married in St. May’s Paddington by the Rev. Mr. Churchill, and the service was interpreted in sign language by the Rev. Samuel Smith.Moore's marriage 001

In 1924, A.J. Wilson, himself a skilled engraver (I have come across at least one engraving by him of a Thomas Davidson picture), called Moore, “the doyen of deaf artists”.

Wilson explains how it was the technical advances in printing, which made the job of the woodcut artist “more precarious”.

“Curiosity” is reproduced by photo-process from a large woodcut which he both drew and engraved. “The Mermaid” is processed from one of Mr. Moore’s oil paintings. These two printing blocks illustrate the advance that has been made in the art of process engraving, because one – “Curiosity” – was reproduced from a line engraving on wood, and when we came to reproduce it by half-tone process the lines were broken up into dots. The other – “The Mermaid” – was photographed direct from the oil painting, yet the various colours of the original have been transformed into black and white by means of an “orthochromatic” plate so that the values are preserved.

curiosity 001The description under “Curiosity” says it was drawn for The Boy’s Own Paper.

Emily and Charles had four sons and one daughter. The middle son, William Webb Moore, was a recipient of the Belgian Order of Chevalier de la Couronne and the French Croix de Guerre, and sadly died in the Great War on the 12th of June 1918.

If we discover any more about Charles Moore and his family we will update this page!

Very acute readers of this blog will know that Moore has already had a picture featured on this site – he was the artist who depicted his friend Thomas Davidson.

There is a woodcut by Moore here.

The Mermaid 001Charles Webb Moore, Ephphatha 1933, p.

A Magazine Intended Chiefly for the Deaf and Dumb, 1875, No. 69, Vol. 6, p. 144

Deaf Artists, The Silent World, A Little Magazine Written by the Deaf for the Deaf, New Series, November 1924, No. 2 p.34-5

Adrien Célestin Soret, radiologist, meteorologist and inventor of the first binaural hearing aid in 1915

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 26 June 2015

Since his death, Adrien Célestin Marie Soret, (7th July 1854- 1931), Chevalier Légion d’honneur (1924), has fallen into obscurity, yet from what little I have discovered, he deserves to be much better known.  He was the son of a lemonade maker and was educated at Tonnerre, Beauvais, Orléans and Havre.  A commemorative plaque at his birthplace tells us “Driven by a concern for popularizing science, in 1886 he organized municipal courses which dealt with current scientific issues such as the effects of electricity and the discovery of X -rays.”  He then turned to photography, creating the Le Havre Society of Photography.

He is here as he is the inventor of the first binaural hearing aid, a fact that seems to have been forgotten by many.  I came across this in the book Binaural Hearing Aids by Andreas Markides (1977), where Soret gets a very brief mention.  That was because of this U.S. patent for a binaural hearing device, in 1915.  However, it is hard to find out how widely it was used and I could not find his name in Berger’s The Hearing Aid: its Operation and Development (1984).

AudiphoneIn Learning to Hear (1970), Edith Whetnall & D.B. Fry of the Royal National Throat Nose and Ear Hospital’s Nuffield Centre, wrote

The man with the monacle excites immediate attention.  The ophthalmologist who prescribed only a monacle for a patient with defective vision in both eyes would be regarded as a little odd.  The situation is completely opposite with hearing aids.  Here the tradition has been to prescribe only one aid.  It is probable that the origin of this tradition lies in expense but it is now so hallowed by custom that advocates of binaural hearing aids are told that they must produce evidence that these have an advantage over monaural aids.  As the normal person is born with two ears the onus of proof would seem to lie in the other direction and the advocates of the monaural hearing aid should prove their case.(pp.131 & 134)

Perhaps those who have threatened to reduce NHS patients to one hearing aid might reflect on that.

Soret’s death made it into Arthur Mee’s The Children’s Newspaper on August the 15th 1931, as “A MAN’S SACRIFICE FOR THE WORLD – Another Great Hero of Peace – SCIENTIST’S LIFE GIVEN TO HUMANITY”

The sunny South of France has experienced a great shadow of grief in the death of an eminent scientist, Professor Celestin Soret, who died at 77.  His life was sacrificed to the, X-ray, for he associated himself whole-heartedly with Dr Röntgen in bringing this invention to the aid of the medical world. The doctors were very sceptical as to the help which they could get from this new invention, and Professor Soret diagnosed over forty thousand cases through the X-ray in his own house, besides the thousands that he was asked to help in the hospitals.  He began life as a schoolmaster in Havre, where he taught physics. Many thousands, not only in France but in other parts of the world, owe him a great debt of gratitude, for he was an international figure.  He was the inventor of apparatus by means of which the sufferers from partial deafness could listen to concerts and conversations with the help of earphones and other pocket instruments. He tried to imagine how much the deaf must miss in life, and he used his knowledge to help them in their difficulty.

Soret was also involved in work at the Hydrographic School of Havre, where he lectured on naval hygiene, and he established a meteorological  observatory on the coast. The article concludes, “Like many other great men of science this French professor died comparatively poor. He placed his knowledge at the disposal of the world to save lives and not to make profit out of it ; and he gave up more than wealth to the cause of knowledge : he sacrificed both his hands.”

In fact, the brief obituary in The British Journal of Radiology Vol.4, p.368, the only other obituary I have so far tracked down, says he died as a result of his early X-ray work, which caused radiodermatitis.  “Through various operations carried out since 1923, Dr. Soret had lost both his arms, which had to be amputated.”

The memorial plaque also says (with the help, I admit, of Google Translate),

A year after the discovery of X -rays (1895) , he set up at his home a ray generator and the first radiography experiments. Four years later he was head of the radiological service in the Hospital of Le Havre.  […] Appointed honorary professor in 1907 , he devoted himself entirely to research and practice of X-rays.  […] In 1928 he received the Medal of the Order of the Crown of Belgium in recognition of the care given to Belgian fighters during their stay in hospital of Le Havre.

It has proved difficult to find these few details of Soret’s life.  One problem is that he shares the same birth year and initial as Charles Soret, the Swiss mathematician and physicist, and some people seem to have confused the two of them.

There is a photograph of him here, and a more poignant photograph with one hand amputated here.

He was a remarkable man.  If you know anything more about him please add a note below.


Sorel et Soret, Un cas d’elephantiasis avec troubles nerveux, gueri par les rayon X. La Normandie medicale, 1″ mars, 1898, p.97.
[I have not seen this article]


Whetnall, E. and Fry, D.S., Learning to Hear (1970)

Hie is remembered as a pioneer of radiology on the Ehrenmal der Radiologie in Hamburg.

His Legion d’honneur citation documents are here.

The Evil of Frankenstein… Portrayal of a Deaf person on film (1964)

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 19 June 2015

One of our more unusual items in the collection that I recently came across is a Hammer Horror film script, The Evil of Frankenstein (1963).  film script The copy we have belonged to Katy Wild (b.1941) who played a ‘deaf and dumb beggar’ girl, which is presumably why it came to us, perhaps donated by her many years ago.  The film starred Hammer favourite, Peter Cushing.  Here is a page from the script where the beggar girl comes into the story.  I suppose one of the themes of the story would be how the girl and the ‘monster’ are both outcasts from society, and are linked together.  It was written by ‘John Elder’  which was the pen-name of Anthony Hinds, son of the Hammer Films founder William Hinds.  The back cover of the script has seven photos from the production enclosed.

There are interesting questions raised by this script, for example, the portrayal of Deaf People in the media, whether there were hearing actors in the roles of Deaf people, and to what extent things may have changed in the past century since we have had cinema and television.  The script will be of interest to anyone studying film.  We should all as consumers of media and entertainment, think critically about how media such as film and TV depict deafness.

Evil of Dr FrankensteinJohn Elder, The Evil of Frankenstein, 1963

John S. Schuchman, Hollywood Speaks: Deafness and the entertainment industry (1988) RNID UTB TJY

Katherine A. Foss, Constructing Hearing Loss or “Deaf Gain?” Voice, Agency, and Identity in Television’s Representations of d/Deafness
Critical Studies in Media Communication Volume 31, Issue 5, 2014

Hamilton, Allyson P, A pedagogical content analysis of deaf culture in feature films Ed.d. dissertation, 2013

“And woven loops of silence circle you; Though none may know The secret of your devastating woe” – Deaf Poet Annie Charlotte Dalton O.B.E.

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 12 June 2015

A while ago I came across a book of poetry in our collection, and for a long time wondered why we have it.  It is from a small print run, numbered 220 on nice paper with black and white prints to illustrate it.  annie Dalton 001The author, Annie Dalton O.B.E. (1865-1938) was born Annie Charlotte Armitage in Birkby, Huddersfield.  Annie was brought up by her grandparents.  Her grandfather, James Stoney, was a cloth dresser.  Perhaps the family considered it a stigma that she was deaf – it would not be the first time,  but any rate, it is only in the 1901 census that she was first described as ‘Deaf from childhood’, a decade after she had married Willie Dalton (1891).  This shows that we should use the information on census returns with an element of caution.  In 1903 they emigrated with their daughter Edith Evelyn, to Vancouver.

It seems that Annie was privately educated, and lost her hearing through illness when aged seven, and this was her stimulus to begin writing poetry (Campbell).

Compared with great poets in her lifetime, she has not fared well since, being seemingly forgotten.  Simon Armitage, the modern poet and translator came across her while ‘ego surfing’.  He says “it might fairly be said that she is no undiscovered genius.”  Wanda Campbell writes that, “Though honoured in her own lifetime as a member of the Order of the British Empire, the only woman poet then included, Dalton has not fared well at the hands of critics, in part because they have tended to assess her poetic achievement in the light of her disability.”  She also says “Her work is uneven but she is nonetheless intriguing in her efforts to make science and anthropology acceptable themes in poetry, and in her efforts to voice the challenges faced by the deaf.” (ibid)

The quotation in the title comes from stanza III of The Silent Zone.

Neighing north 001

You can read more of her poetry here and decide for yourself – Canadian Poetry.

There is a photograph of her here – Photograph.

1871 census Class: RG10; Piece: 4371; Folio: 42; Page: 29; GSU roll: 848086

1881 census Class: RG11; Piece: 4385; Folio: 158; Page: 27; GSU roll: 1342047

1891 census Class: RG12; Piece: 3571; Folio: 110; Page: 18; GSU roll: 6098681

1901 census Class: RG13; Piece: 4105; Folio: 161; Page: 4

Annie Charlotte Dalton, by Wanda Campbell  [Accessed 12/6/2014]

Annie Charlotte Dalton, illustrated by J.W. Galloway MacDonald, The Neighing North (1935)

“I have found the glass, and you are destined to make the spectacles!”

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 5 June 2015

The  Mirror of literature amusement and instruction was an early 19th century journal published from 1822-47 by John Limbird.

MirrorIn the March the 6th 1824 edition, this letter appeared, which shows us that even in the early years of what we might call modern education, the methods for teaching deaf children were a deeply divisive issue, and of course not in the hands of the Deaf themselves.  It begins with a defence of the teaching methods of the Abbé de l’Épée, saying that Sicard, his heir in deaf education in France, along with others in Britain, misrepresented him, ‘that he taught his pupils “words by signs” and not “words by things,” and suppressed all his valuable books and manuscripts.’ (p.147)  Our critic (he signs himself ‘A Friend to the Unfortunate’) goes on to lambast Sicard further, saying he fabricated evidence that said the Abbé ‘acknowledged that he taught his pupils only to write, under the dictation of signs, without their knowing question or answer.’ He continues,

and after all such fallacies, he had the impudence to add another, the greatest of all, in the following words :- “But does it become a scholar to push his master so hard, above all when he told me frequently that his success satisfied all Europe, and that so great a glory ought to be sufficient for those who wished to imitate him;” adding this modest confession, moreover, “I have found the glass, and you are destined to make the spectacles!”

To prove the fallacy of this assertion, I refer the reader to the books published by the good Abbé de l’Épée, in which there is not a single sentence to justify the imputation of so gross a calumny.

Our author tells us he lent a copy of one of the Abbé’s books to a a teacher at a Deaf Asylum (unnamed), who said it ‘the true method of instructing the Deaf and Dumb is clearly exhibited.’ (ibid) He tells us also that Watson of the Old Kent Road Asylum, censured the Abbé basing this criticism on Sicard’s testimony (p.148).

The writer goes on to quote extensively from the Liverpool “report of the Committee of the Methodist Day and Sunday Schools for the year 1822,” which noting the lectures of Mr. Humphreys on the Dublin Claremont Institution, says that the Abbé’s works were suppressed (p.149).  They then resolved to take the advice of Mr. Arrowsmith, who had written The art of instructing the infant deaf and dumb… illustrated with copper plates, drawn and engraved by the author’s brother, an artist born deaf and dumb. To which is annexed The method of educating mutes of a more mature age, which has been practised with so much success on the continent, by the Abbe de l’Eppe (together with The manner of instructing the deaf and dumb to articulate) (London: Taylor and Hessey, 1819).  We have this book and will take a closer look at that in a future post.

Read though the article if you can, and particularly note the paragraph that begins at the bottom of page 149.  Proposing that young men who will become teachers go to the Asylum for the gratuitous instruction of the Deaf and Dumb Poor (I assume they mean Old Kent Road?), to acquire a knowledge of teaching deaf children and the manual alphabet.

A residence for two months at this institution would, we are almost certain, enable any young person of ordinary capacity to acquire a competent knowledge of the system there pursued. It would not, surely, be unreasonable to require of all the teachers of the national schools, at least in populous districts, a preparation which would qualify them to undertake the instruction of the Deaf and Dumb with the other children of parents in better circumstances. This would relieve the public from the enormous additional expense, at present unnecessarily incurred in boarding and instructing them: and it would save the pupils themselves from the danger, by no means imaginary, of contracting tastes and habits, inconsistent with their subsequent situations. (p.150)

The whole article is below.

1Mirror 147

2Mirror 148

3Mirror 149

4Mirror 150


Roots of Audiology – the Audiometer

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 15 May 2015

Modern audiology was only really possible with late 19th century advances in technology and the understanding of electromagnetism that allowed for the measurement of hearing ability.  This allowed the invention of the audiometer, then the development of transistors to replace valves enabled the amplification of sound in a convenient portable device, which became the ‘modern’ hearing aid in the 1940s.

The audiologist has roots in both the medical and the technical –

  • there were the otolaryngologists, doctors who treated and investigated hearing,
  • then there were those who sold instruments like ear trumpets and their ilk, the dispensers,
  • and there were the scientists who developed the theories of acoustics, and the instruments that were used to measure hearing.

One of the latter was David Edward Hughes who was a pioneer of the microphone (which we covered in a previous blog).  Hughes, a great experimenter, developed his ‘audiometer’ at around the same time (1879), and it was first mentioned in his article in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, On an Induction-Currents Balance, and Experimental Researches Made Therewith.

During the course of these experiments with this instrument I noticed my own hearing powers varied very much with state of health, weather, &c., that different individuals had wide differences of hearing, and that in nearly all cases one ear was more sensitive than the other; thus whilst my degree of hearing was 10, another might be 60 in one ear and 15 in another.*

*To this portion of my instrument when used as a measurer of our hearing powers, we have given the name of audiometer.

( Hughes 1879 p.58)

AudiometerThe Illustrated London News (see picture with the sonometer to the left and the audiometer numbered 4) described the device –

The audiometer, an adaptation of the sonometer, being an instrument for exactly measuring our power of hearing and chronicling the progress of recovery from deafness. It was first applied by Dr. Richardson to some very remarkable investigations relative to our hearing powers.  a is the scale measured into 200 millimetres.  bb are the two primary fixed coils, both exactly similar to those in the sonometer as to length and size of wire, although what should be the thinner coil is here padded out, so that they look both alike as to depth.

The wires from these coils are connected with the microphone, c, and Leelanche’s battery cells, dd; e, secondary and moving coil, connected through the binding screws, ff, to the telephone, h. The switch, g is a brass arm pivoted on an ebony plate, on which are also fixed two brass studs. The free end of arm placed over either of these gives either the force of one or, when desired, two cells, the stronger current being used only for very deaf patients. (Illustrated London News , 1879)

Benjamin Ward Richardson, a great friend of Hughes, experimented with this instrument, and coined the name.

“In this preliminary report I have omitted many subjects of interest, but I hope I have related enough to show that the world of science in general, and the world of medicine in particular,is under a deep debt of gratitude to Professor Hughes for his simple and beautiful instrument, which I have christened the audimeter, or less correctly but more euphoniously, the audiometer.” (Richardson, 1879)

Richardson was a close friend of John Snow of cholera fame, and a remarkable man in his own right, being a physician, sanitarian, anaesthetist and historian of medicine.

In his 1979 article on Hughes and his audiometer, Stephens says Hughes “does not appear to have been interested in the application of his audiometer”.  Hughes was awarded a Royal Society Gold Medal in 1885, and his funeral in Highgate was attended by the U.S. ambassador as well as representatives of the governments of Serbia, France and Greece (Stephens, p.3).  Richardson was also diverted by his many other interests and did not pursue research with the audiometer.

T.Hawksley, who manufactured and sold hearing devices, went into production with the “Hughes’ Sonometer” in 1883, and it seems it was still available as late as 1912 (Stephens p.4).

Audiometers do not seem to have taken off however, and Stephens says there are few references to them in the otolaryngological textbooks of the period.  It was only with the increased use of valve audiometers in the 1930s that audiology as a separate discipline began to find its own place.

Hughes, D.E., On an Induction-Currents Balance, and Experimental Researches Made Therewith, Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, 1879 Volume 29, pp. 56-65

Hughes’s Electric Sonometer and Balance, and Audiometer.Illustrated London News (London, England), Saturday, November 15, 1879; pg. 463; Issue 2109

Richardson, B.W., Some Researches with Professor Hughes’ New Instrument for the Measurement of Hearing; the Audiometer, Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, 1879 Volume 29, pp. 65-70

Stephens, S.D.G., David Edward Hughes and his audiometer. Journal of Laryngology and Otology, 1979, Volume 93 pp.1-6

“Then you’re a fool,” said my father – Arthur Upson – deaf missioner in Egypt

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 8 May 2015

As anyone who has read even a small amount about Deaf History will know, there is an intimate relationship between religion and mission work, and deafness, throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, with positive and negative effects on those involved.   Usually this takes the form of religious missions among deaf people in the country concerned, sometimes bringing them together into communities by the formation of institutions with educational or religious aims.  A different example is Arthur Thomas Upson, who lost his hearing when a young man when he was already determined to lead the life of a missionary abroad, but whose missionary activities were in Egypt.

UpsonArthur was born is Essex in 1874, the son of Arthur Upson of Rayleigh, a harness maker, and his wife Sarah.  In the picture we see Upson in the back row, third from the right.  We read about his gradual ‘conversion’ to mission work in his memoir, High Lights in the Near East (1936), p.14-15).  He worked as a student teacher in Rayleigh after finishing school, and in the wet summer of 1890 the new term was delayed by one week so the boys could help with the harvest.  Walking by Southend pier, Arthur was asked by Alex Nielson of Forest Gate if he was a Christian.  He replied that he hoped he was, was given a pamphlet “Safety, Certainty and Enjoyment”, which when he had read it gave his his first Damascene moment. Later, when he decided to become a missionary, he was accepted by the North Africa Mission.  His father’s response to his determination to go abroad was, “Then you’re a fool”.  He started to learn Arabic, and soon found himself engaged to Miss Kitty Philpott, but the marriage was delayed until 1901.

Upson dedicationUpson became ill in 1899, while he was in Egypt learning Arabic.  He had ‘confluent smallpox’, which damaged the hearing in his right ear, then underwent an operation on a ‘burr’ in his left nostril (whatever that means), supposedly causing hearing problems in his left ear.  The operation did not address the problem and seemed to make it worse as he started to lose his hearing in that ear as well.

It is hard to gauge how successful Upson was as a missionary.  Then, as now, apostasy from Islam was not allowed.   The memoir is not a great piece of writing or a narrative of his life, but it is a collection of ‘episodes’ and reminiscences.

The outbreak of war in 1914 saw the start of a massive troop movement into Egypt.  Where there were soldiers there would be prostitution and Upson was greatly exercised by this.

“Brands plucked out of the fire” (Zech. 3:2). What imagery!  What urgency!  How the fire burned within me at the very thought of the thousands of troops and hundreds of officers that were being destroyed in the fires of Cairo and Alexandria. Twenty-five streets and lanes in our one city of Cairo were given over to the detestable traffic in girls and women. And still the area was continually being enlarged until much of what is commonly called the “European Quarter” was involved. Near us, a single building of about 40 rooms, formerly a well-known hotel, was used by “Officers Only.” Further, there had been almost a complete breakdown of attempts to make vice “safe” (?), and not a few of the bolder men, such as Anzacs, had taken matters into their own hands and several brothels had been burnt down in revenge for disease taken from the women.
many were greatly worried at the mounting percentage of V.D. cases.
One can hardly walk past those beautifully-kept cemeteries at Cairo, Jerusalem, and other places in the East without wondering how many were victims of Turkish bullets and how many of unmentionable diseases! (ibid p.68-9)

Upson’s answer was to distribute ‘purity’ leaflets in English and Arabic, over four years 40,000 of each.  We might wonder if his use of ‘brands’ was deliberately suggestive!

He continues,

The matron of one hospital wrote to ask my help to try to stop “Sandbagging,” a species of crime that I have never heard of in any other connection.  On going into the matter, it appeared that soldiers – Anzacs, if possible, for they carried more money – were invited into certain brothels, taken up to balcony rooms, made drunk, and then violently struck in the centre of the spinal column by something hard enough to benumb the victim but without wounding him – originally a bag of sand was used – then the poor wretch would be pitched over the balcony into the street, and perhaps killed, or one or more limbs would be broken.  Needless to say, the victim was always robbed of all he carried before he was thrown into the street.  When picked up by the Military Police, there was every evidence of drunkenness and so it became easy to conclude that he “Fell over the balcony whilst drunk.”  Terrible!  But we made urgent representations to the Authorities and the patrols of Military Police were strengthened and a better look-out was kept, and in time that particular form of crime seemed to come to an end. (ibid p.70-1)

Upson letterAs you will see, Upson sent copies of his two books to Selwyn Oxley, and into one, Oxley has stuck a letter from the author.  Upson returned to Essex around 1934, dying there in 1958.

Abdul-fady, Evergreen and other Near East Bible Talks London ; Edinburgh : Marshall, Morgan & Scott, (1938)

Abdul-fady, High Lights in the Near East London ; Edinburgh : Marshall, Morgan & Scott, (1936)