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Alfred Binet, French psychologist, versus Giulio Ferrerí, Italian oralist, 1910

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 24 February 2017

Giulio Ferreri (1860-1942)* was an oralist teacher of the deaf who was Rector of the Royal National Institution, Milan, for many years.  He travelled fairly widely it seems, visiting America, where he studied the educational methods, writing a monograph in 1903 that was translated for the Volta Bureau in 1908 as The American Institutions for the Education of the Deaf.  According to the scribbled note in the front of that book, he met Selwyn Oxley on two occasions, in Milan in 1914, and at the Teacher Conference in London in 1925.

Not long after the appearance of Ferreri’s American publication, the French psychologist Alfred Binet and his colleague Théodore Simon, who together created the first IQ test, wrote an article in l’Année psychologique reprinted and translated later in The American Annals of the Deaf, ‘An Investigation Concerning the Value of the Oral Method.’  They found that congenitally deaf taught people who were considered to be oral successes, were unable to communicate effectively orally

when one is a bit of a psychologist, one feels curious to know how an art so delicate as that of speech can be taught to unfortunate beings who are totally deaf.  Is it possible that speech, with its delicate shades of intonation which we acquire through the ear, can be learned by individuals who have never heard?  Is it possible?  Perhaps it will be thought that no one has the right to declare anything impossible; but this is one of those things which require a very strong proof to be accepted. (p.35)
[…]
we refrain from concluding that the oral method is a total failure. We do not like such positive assertions; the truth has more delicate shades of distinction. If the oral method really presented no sort of advantage whatever, it would not have held its ground in our schools for thirty years. But we believe that its practical value has been overestimated. It seems to us to be a sort of pedagogy de luxe, which produces moral effects rather than useful and tangible results. It does not enable deaf-mutes to get situations; it does not permit them to enter into relations with strangers; it does not allow them even a consecutive conversation with their relatives; and deaf-mutes who have not learned to speak earn their living just as easily as those who have acquired this semblance of speech. That is the observation which we made again and again, and with a persistency which seemed to us very eloquent. (p.44)

Ferreri was not impressed, responding with what Moores (1997) points out as a very personal attack:

Alfred Binet and his fellow helper, Dr. Simon, have made an investigation as to the value of the oral method, and have published a report of it in their well-known review, l’Année psychologique.  In the minds of the authors the results of their investigations must have appeared very important, but to educators of the deaf, as well as to every conscientious scientist, it is a very poor affair.  But in that case, it may be asked, is it worthwhile to take this study into serious consideration?  It is; because one must apply to the crime of Alfred Binet and Co. the theory of Licurgus, who taught that one should judge a misdeed not in itself but in its consequences. And. in view of the wide circulation and the merits of l’Année psychologique, the mistakes made by the Paris psychologists in judging of the oral method may be disastrous in their consequences upon the opinions of learned men. (p.46)
[…]
In regard to the capacity of criticism, which Mr. Binet denies to the educators of the deaf, we can only reply: Inform yourself of what has been written and discussed concerning the methods of teaching and the means of their application during the past thirty years, and you will make a discovery, viz., that the teachers of the deaf understand very well the deficiencies of their work, and that their knowledge and their desires have always found an obstacle in that economic question which, if it is explicable in politicians and public authorities, is shameful in scientists and takes away all value from their investigations. And this is exactly what has happened to the investigations of Binet and Co. (p.48)

Ferreri

The above signed photograph is inserted into the front of Oxley’s copy of the book.

Translated by the author from l’Educazione dei Sordormuti for October 1909. Ferreri, G. 1910. Mistaken investigations concerning the value of the oral method. American Annals of the Deaf, 55(1), 34-38 [Reprinted in American Annals of the Deaf, Volume 142, Number 3, July 1997, pp. 46-48]

Alfred Binet, Théodore Simon American Annals of the Deaf, Volume 142, Number 3, July 1997, pp. 35-45

Moores, Donald F., American Annals of the Deaf, Volume 142, Number 3, July 1997, pp. xvi-xx

*https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=5dgzAQAAIAAJ&q=%22giulio+ferreri%22&dq=%22giulio+ferreri%22&hl=en&sa=X&redir_esc=y

I have not at present any information on Ferreri’s personal life – if I have we will update this.  He may be the same as this Professor Giulio Ferreri who married an American lady, Ellen Charlotte Alexander, in London in 1901, but I understand that Ferreri is a common name in Italy, being the name for a ‘farrier’ – smith, so it is possible that is another Ferreri also from Milan.

Voice trainer, Emil Behnke, “as accurate as Huxley and as fascinating as Faraday”

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 17 February 2017

BehnkeEmil Behnke (1836-1892) was born in Stettin, the son of a merchant, but became a naturalized British subject.  From around 1860 he began to study the voice, and “the physiological aspects of singing and speaking” (People, Places, and Things).  He sang baritone with an opera company, before moving to England in 1865 (Musical Herald, 1892).  He was one of the foremost voice trainers of the mid to late 19th century, in fact his obituary in The Times practically attributes the foundation of a new discipline to him:

At the age of 30 he began to lecture on “the Mechanism of the voice” under the auspices of such physiological experts as Professors Sharpey, Burdon Sanderson, M’Kendrick, and Struthers, and speedily had engagements at the foremost musical and scientific societies of the country.  So ingenious were his illustrative models and so successful was he in the application of scientific principles to the practical work of the teaching of singing, and more particularly to the restoration of voices impaired by false training, that he may be said to have established an entirely new profession, and he was universally accepted as a leading authority on all matters relating to the voice.  He was consulted by many eminent teachers of singing and worked in co-operation with leading medical specialists.

Behnke was co-author with Lennox Browne of The Child’s Voice  (1885), and Voice Song and Speech (1883).  Lennox Browne was a founder of the Royal National Throat Nose and Ear Hospital, our present home, and a leading ENT surgeon.  Interestingly, The Child’s Voice, was dedicated to Sir John Stainer the musician and composer, who was of course the brother of our old friend, the Rev. William Stainer, teacher of the Deaf.  I wonder if there were connections between William Stainer and Lennox Browne or Behnke.

According to Rachel Holmes, in her biography of Eleanor Marx, Eleanor Marx: a life (2014, p.158), she says that along with John Hullah, Behnke taught the theatrical couple Hermann and Jane Elizabeth Vezin.  As a teacher and lecturer he was, according to People, Places, and Things, “as accurate as Huxley and as fascinating as Faraday.”  He had a deep knowledge of vocal physiology and anatomy, and the same article says that he was invited to lecture at UCL by Burdon Sanderson and Sharpey, and that “Professor Foster put his theatre at Behnke’s disposal.”

Behnke held ‘concerts’ or as he preferred to say, ‘open rehearsals’ using the tonic sol-fa method of singing’ that was invented in Norwich by Sarah Glover and pioneered by John Curwen, who had been a student at UCL, and whose son, music publisher John Spencer Curwen, wrote Behnke’s obituary.  The Curwen’s knew Behnke from tonic sol-fa conventions.

One former school pupil of Behnke’s said, “he saved me from being an utter cad” (The Musical Herald, Nov 1, 1892).

There is a charming reminiscence of him in The Musical Herald (1898) by ‘E.D.’:

I was a little girl at a boarding-house in Weymouth when I became the pupil of Herr Behnke.  He was not then the noted voice specialist that he afterwards became, but a dark-haired young man fresh from Germany, who had been engaged to give drawing, French, and piano lessons at Miss S—–‘s school.  Although he had been in England, I believe, only a few weeks, his English was well-nigh perfect.
[…]

“Never mind the notes,” he would say, when I was over-anxious lest my fingers should drop on the wrong keys; “Never mind the notes, keep time!

John S. Curwen, who clearly held him in very high regard, said, “He stood halfway between the doctor and the singing master” (p.293).  He died in Ostend on a holiday, when he was trying to recuperate from the illness that dogged his last years.  His friend Lennox Browne even crossed over to see if there was anything he could do to help, but Behnke died on the 17th of September, 1892, at the age of only 56 (Curwen, p.291).

His wife and his daughter Kate Emil-Behnke continued his teaching legacy, and both wrote books and updated his books.  There is much more interesting to say about the three of them, beyond the scope of this item.

The Mechanism of the Human VoiceCurwen, J Spencer. The Musical Herald; London 535, (Oct 1, 1892): 291-294

THE LATE EMIL BEHNKE.The Musical Herald; London 536 (Nov 1, 1892): 351-351.

Some Reminiscences of Emil Behnke. E D. The Musical Herald; London 598(Jan 1, 1898): 22-22.

People, Places, and Things. Hearth and Home (London, England), Thursday, October 13, 1892; pg. 716; Issue 74

The Times 19th of September 1892, p. 9

1871 Census (Curwen family) – Class: RG10; Piece: 1629; Folio: 11; Page: 13; GSU roll: 829938

[Picture from the obituary in The Musical Herald.]

“I think I am as devoted to and I hope I have been as as successful in promoting the oral system as any one living.” Dr. David Buxton

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 10 February 2017

Dr. David Buxton (1821-1897) was a teacher of the deaf at Liverpool.  He was co-founder of The Quarterly Review of Deaf Mute Education, an important publication that pre-dated the foundation of the National Association for Teachers of the Deaf and its journal, the Teacher of the Deaf, and spent the last years of his life working as secretary then Superintendent to the Manchester Adult Deaf and Dumb Institute.  He was also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

Buxton was born in Manchester, son of Jesse, a cotton spinner, and his wife Ann.  On the Manchester baptismal register he was one of 64 children baptised on Sunday the 17th of June, 1821 (see records on ancestry.com).   His obituary in The British Deaf Monthly, from which much of the following comes, says, “Of his early life we know little until his twentieth year, when he became an inmate of the Old Kent Road asylum, remaining there ten years, at first as junior, and ending as head assistant teacher.”  According to his evidence to The Royal Commission on the Blind, the Deaf and Dumb, he started his teaching career at Old Kent Road in January 1841, and went to Liverpool in October 1851 (page 309. paragraph 9183 in the Minutes of Evidence).  From there he moved to Liverpool as headmaster, where he remained for 26 years.  Branson and Miller (p.194) tell us that Buxton joined the Old Kent Road Asylum “on the recommendation of the Reverend Alexander Watson of St. Andrews Ancoats, a relative of Dr. Watson whom he had met through a mutual interest in literature.”  Unfortunately they give us no source for that statement.  Alexander Watson was in fact a son of Dr. Joseph Watson by his second wife, Susannah Littlewood (thanks to @DeafHeritageUK for pointing that out).

In 1878 David Buxton became Secretary of the Ealing Teacher Training College, and was consequently on good terms with the oralist, Sir Benjamin Ackers.  Ackers was one of the members of the Royal Commission.  In his evidence to the Royal Commission of 1886, Buxton said (p.309), “I think I am as devoted to and I hope I have been as successful in promoting the oral system as any one living.”  In paragraph 9179, he explains “My own special duty at the Old Kent Road was to teach the first class; I taught all to speak as it was called then, teaching them articulation.”  Further on in his extensive testimony, which continues for over twelve pages of dense text, he was asked, presumably by the chairman of the committee for that session, Lord Egerton of Tatton,

We have three systems of teaching the deaf and dumb: the sign system, the combined system, and the oral system.  Do you think that any one of those is so superior to the others that the State ought to insist that only should be taught; or do you think that there must be two or more systems recognised side by side by the State?”

He responded,

“I am so thoroughly in earnest in my advocacy of the superiority of the oral system, that I should be very glad to see every other extinguished; but I know that must be a matter of time.  The oral system is incomparably the best; it is not open to question at all, because it assimilates the deaf to the class with whom they live.  If I want to communicate by signs to a deaf child I have to descend to his level: but by the oral system I endeavour to raise him to my level.  For a time perhaps the combined system may struggle on: I think that is very probable; but that the sign system in itself will last I have not the slightest expectation.  I think it will die out. (paragraph 9221)

Dr David Buxton

Some might say it is “an unconscionable time dying.”

On a curious note, in paragraph 9255 (p.314), he is asked about encouraging games such as cricket and football in school, and tells the commission, “One of my pupils at Liverpool came from Chester; he came to Liverpool to school to save himself from being drowned in the Chester Canal, I expect, for they could not keep the fellow out of the canal; he was in all day long on a summer’s day.”

The whole report is very long, but reading snatches of it brings the period to life, being reported speech, and I imagine, accurately recorded as an official report.  This exchange is very illuminating:

9262. […] when I first became a teacher the very large proportion of those who taught in the institutions were deaf teachers.

9263.  That is objectionable, is it not?  – Most objectionable.  When I went into the Old Kent Road Asylum, I think the staff was 12; I was the third who who could hear and all the other nine were deaf.   They were very good specimens of what the combined system could do; most of them could speak; they all made signs to their pupils and to one another, but nearly all spoke to us, the hearing staff.  Now I think deaf teachers are almost obsolete […]*

Buxton’s degree of 1870 was a rare honour,  conferred on him, Harvey Peet, William Turner, and Charles Baker, by Edward M. Gallaudet (American Annals of the Deaf, 1870, p.256).  It illustrates how influential his various articles were in the years before the Milan Congress.

In the Rev. Fred Gilby’s memoirs (p.149) he recalls Buxton :

I remember that Dr. Buxton was living, an extra-pure oralist though he was in theory, he ended up his days by acting as missionary to the deaf, and was acting as such in 1895 when I got there.  A foremost champion of pure oralism, he was polite enough to come and lunch with me and to honour me with his company.  He was a master of pure English but “how are the mighty fallen”, and he was now “preaching to the deaf on his fingers!”  Sunday after Sunday in his old age he came to be using the method he had for a number of years been cursing up hill and down dale.

Buxton died of influenza on the 23rd of April, 1897, and was buried at Smithdown Road Cemetery, Liverpool. Ephphatha‘s editorial for June, 1897, says,

Many regarded him as the Nestor of our cause.  He undoubtedly possessed a vast store of knowledge and a ready pen and tongue.  But he did not prosper in a worldly sense.  His life was beset with difficulties, with thorns and trials, yet he worked bravely on, good natured, patient, and scholarly unto the last.  Let him be remembered for the good he did, and for the strenuous service of his seventy years.

American Annals of the Deaf, 1897, Volume 42 (4), p,269-70

Branson, J. & Miller, D., Damned for their Difference: the Cultural Construction of Deaf People as Disabled. Gallaudet, 2002

Obituary. British Deaf Monthly, 1897, 6, 151.

Portrait. British Deaf-Mute and Deaf Chronicle, 1894, 3, 36.

Buxton, D., On the Education of the Deaf and Dumb in Lancashire and Cheshire, Volume: 6 (1853-1854) Pages: 91-102

Buxton, D., On some results of the census of the deaf and dumb in 1861, Volume: 17 (1864-1865) Pages: 231-248

1891 census – Class: RG12; Piece: 3183; Folio: 67; Page: 19; GSU roll: 6098293

1861 census – Class: RG 9; Piece: 2683; Folio: 84; Page: 1; GSU roll: 543012

Alexander Watson (1815/16–1865): doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/28827

*[For the continuation of this exchange, I feel a future blog entry will be necessary]

“The Constitution of the Deaf and Dumb” – William B. Smith, & James Hawkins – a Reader & an Author

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 3 February 2017

Three headmasters 1907William Barnes Smith (1840-1927) was a younger brother of the Rev. Samuel Smith, first vicar of St. Saviour’s, and missioner to the Deaf of London.  He was born in Leicestershire, and spent 54 years teaching up to his retirement in 1908.  His older brother was the Rev. Samuel Smith, of St. Saviour’s London.  William trained under Charles Baker of Doncaster, then worked under Andrew Patterson at Manchester before spending 12 years with Dr. Buxton at Liverpool.  In 1873 he was appointed headmaster of the Bristol Institution (see obituary).  He also acted as Secretary to the Bristol Mission for the Deaf after retirement.  His son Alfred G. Smith trained at the Fitzroy Square Training College, then became headmaster of the Osborne Street  School for the Deaf, Hull (Teacher of the Deaf, 1915, vol. 13, p. 27).

On the 20th of June, 1864, William B. Smith bought a copy of The physical, Moral, and Intellectual Constitution of the Deaf and Dumb: with some practical and general remarks concerning their education.  I know this as he wrote that in ink on the title page, pencilling ‘Liverpool’ underneath.  Later, he wrote his name and address inside the front cover – 5 Rokeby Avenue, Bristol .  He later gave the book to Selwyn Oxley.  This book, which had been published in London in 1863, was written by James Hawkins (1830- after 1891).  Hawkins was born in Wolvercut, Wolvercott, or Wolvercote, Oxfordshire, in about 1830.  I do not know how he came to become a teacher of the deaf (perhaps a thorough search of various surviving records might illuminate that), but by the 1851 census he was an assistant teacher at the Old Kent Road Asylum, along with George Banton, (b.ca. 1812), Edward J Chidley (b. 1819), Edward Buxton (b.ca. 1826), William Stainer (b. 1828), Charles Toy (b.ca. 1832), Alfred Large (b.ca.1835), and Emma Rayment (b.ca.  1829).

The present crude state of all physiological, as well as pathological science, necessarily renders very conjectural any remarks upon the origo mali, or the phenomena of disease.  The fall of Adam is one of the most favourite of the theories which are nursed by Divines and others, in an excess of Hutchinsonian zeal; and to this ‘excellent foppery of the world,’ as Shakespeare has it, they like to attribute every bodily affliction and mental evil that can happen to mankind.  Argumentative reasoning, however (of this kind especially), shows ‘an indiscreet zeal about things wherein religion is not concerned,’ as weak as it is undoubtedly fallacious, and affords them but a poor ‘coigne of vantage;’ for the majority of our inborn  and acquired calamities are ofttimes none other than the ‘surfeit of our own behaviour,’ the spontaneous results of injury done to the functions of the body, by throwing its natural and complex organization out of gear, and not, as many would make us believe, always direct constitutional imprints of the Creator’s anger on his creatures. (Hawkins, 1863, Preface, p.iii-iv).

Hawkins must have had a good education.  In his preface alone he mentions Paley and Malthus, as well as quoting Ovid and, perhaps ingenuously, “no cormorant for fame,” Peter Pindar.  The names of more classical authors are dropped in when opportunity allows.  He cites Niebuhr, who

called the office of the schoolmaster one of the most honourable occupations of life.  He could well have added, and one in which a thorough manliness of character is also most essential; for there is not one where all the manly virtues are more called into exercise.  Moral courage, unsullied reputation and integrity, sound religious principles, firmness of purpose and gentleness of demeanour ought ever to be his most distinguishing traits, if he aspire to any degree of eminence in his profession. (ibid, p.98)

It is all the more poignant then, that for some reason, by 1871, when he was living in Greenwich with Charles Henry James, Harbour Master at the Port of London, he was ‘unemployed’, and ‘formerly Assistant Teacher to the Deaf & D. Institute’.  I wonder what caused him to be dismissed.  Did his book upset people?  It would seem unlikely that a book published eight years earlier might cause his dismissal.  Is it possible he was tutoring Ellen James, who was deaf, though by then aged 25?  In the 1881 census he was a ‘wholesale stationer’ visiting the James family.  It looks as if something or someone destroyed his life as a teacher.  If you discover more about James Hawkins, who does not seem to have married, and who I cannot find after the 1891 census when he was a visitor in St. Pancras, please comment.

Here is a page from the text.  Click to enlarge.Hawkins 2

Smith

Obituary, Mr. W.B. Smith, The Teacher of the Deaf, 1927, vol. 25 p.35

Hawkins 

Hawkins, James, The physical, Moral, and Intellectual Constitution of the Deaf and Dumb: with some practical and general remarks concerning their education. 1863, Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts, & Green, London

1871 Census – Class: RG10; Piece: 758; Folio: 34; Page: 31; GSU roll: 824727

1881 Census – Class: RG11; Piece: 1509; Folio: 41; Page: 5; GSU roll: 1341364

1891 Census – Class: RG12; Piece: 139; Folio: 71; Page: 1; GSU roll: 6095249

*”This is the excellent foppery of the world that when we are sick in fortune—often the surfeit of our own behavior—we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and the stars, as if we were villains by necessity, fools by heavenly compulsion, knaves, thieves, and treachers by spherical predominance, drunkards, liars, and adulterers by an enforced obedience of planetary influence, and all that we are evil in by a divine thrusting-on.” Edmund in King Lear.

“Oh, that the younger generation of the deaf were more like him!” Saul Magson of Manchester

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 27 January 2017

Saul MagsonSaul Magson was born in Manchester in August 1813.  He was, according to the census return for 1871, ‘deaf from birth’.  His obituary however says that he lost his hearing aged two, after an illness ‘attended with convulsions’.  The The British Deaf-Mute (1894), on which much of this is based, also says that he was one of the earliest pupils at the Salford School, what became The Manchester School,in February, 1825.  It was then under its first headmaster, William Vaughan, with eight girls and six boys (Bessant, 1892, p.98-9).  Vaughan had been an assistant master at the Old Kent Road Asylum.  As an aside, it would be very illuminating to draw a connected list of teachers, to see under whom each one trained, making an intellectual family tree in the way that is sometimes done for academics.

Magson became a clerk in Manchester Town Hall, but he never married.  He worked there for forty years until retirement.  In 1871 he was living with his younger brother James, a ‘stone and flag salesman’ (census 1871).  He was a regular at the Manchester Society for Promoting the Spiritual and Temporal Welfare of the Deaf, which was established in 1850, and until 1854 apparently he ran it with Mr. Patterson.  He also held services for deaf people in Ashton-under-Lyme, Oldham, Bury and Rochdale, among other places.  He was friends with G.A.W. Downing and William Stainer, (later both becoming ‘the Reverend) among many others.  “He was methodical, and notably punctual.  He often spoke of the friendly appreciation and kindness he received from the late Sir Joseph Heron, the first Town Clerk of Manchester, in whose department he was employed.”  He lived through the period of the extraordinary growth of Manchester.  By the time he moved to Southport, much of the town must have been totally transformed.  Heron earned an astounding £2,500 a year at one point, so I wonder how much Magson earned.  It is possible that there are records in Manchester archives that would tell us more about Magson and what he worked on.

he was a good servant; he knew his own mind; he knew when he was well off, and he was not one of those who are “given to change.”  The consequence was that he was never out of a situation.  He kept the same situation and no other for forty years.  Oh, that the younger generation of the deaf were more like him!

Saul Magson died on the 12th of April 1894, and was interred at Cheetham Hill, Manchester.  If you know that cemetery, and have the opportunity to see where he is buried, please let us know in the comment field below.

In Memoriam – the Late Saul Magson, The British Deaf-Mute, 1894, vol.3 p.119

The Manchester School, Quarterly Review of Deaf Mute Education, 1892, vol. 2 p.97-108) 

1871 census – Class: RG10; Piece: 3979; Folio: 87; Page: 4; GSU roll: 846090

V. R. Parrott, ‘Heron, Sir Joseph (1809–1889)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/49712, accessed 27 Jan 2017]

“the deaf who had been taught by the manual method were more intelligent & much better educated…” Agar & Rosa Russell

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 13 January 2017

Rosa Brommage was born in Wolverhampton in 1862, fourth child of Alfred, a clerk for a cemetery company, originally from Kidderminster, and his wife Caroline.  Her older sisters, Caroline and Annie, were both, like Rosa, deaf ‘from birth’ according to the census return.  Her five younger siblings all had normal hearing.  On the 18th of April, 1892, she married Agar Russell, who had lost his hearing aged 12.  Agar’s father was originally Samuel Gunster, from a Jewish family in Posen, although Agar said that they did not know his nationality – whether Polish or German.  Samuel went to America as a young man, but somehow avoided conscription and ended up in London, where he met his ‘wife’, though Agar was never sure whether they were married (various pages in his Reminiscences).

Agar Russell April 1899 Ephphatha 1We have the manuscript of Agar’s memoirs, Surdus; Reminiscences, written it seems in the war years.  They are rather higgledy-piggledy, with chapters that are themed rather than being chronological, for example “Workhouses and other Institutions,” or “Holiday Adventures.”  Some things you would like to know are not mentioned in much detail.

Agar Russell had grown up in London, where he was acquainted with the Rev. Fred Gilby and various people in the St.Saviour’s Deaf church congregation.  When he was 16, it was suggested that he become a teacher to the deaf, yet, as he says, “having never met a deaf and dumb person, or seen the manual alphabet.”  He went to the Llandaff School for six years as assistant to Alexander Melville.  The children of the school “gave a smiling welcome, and then began to make remarks to one another in a gesture language which I felt I should never be able to understand.”

Agar paints an interesting picture of life in the school.  He does not seem to have particularly liked the headmaster, Alexander Melville, and was not impressed by his teaching methods.  Melville “expected the children to answer his questions on subjects of which they had not sufficient written instructions.”  “Mrs Melville was deaf and dumb, of a quiet and gentle disposition and of no unusual attainments, and evidently in awe of her husband.  We cannot but conjecture that this union was due to her being the means of his requiring funds for the purpose of establishing the school” (see his Reminiscences).  When Mr Clyne of Bristol Deaf School came to take over temporarily after the death of Melville’s first wife,  Agar says he used instructions in writing before he put questions to the pupils –

Who? – Does? – What?

Mary – sweeps – the floor

What? – Done? – By Whom?

The floor – is swept – by Mary

In his Reminiscences he also said, “From my own experience I found that the deaf who had been taught by the manual method were more intelligent and much better educated than those brought up on the manual system.”  In the Ephphatha interview in 1896, Agar’s questioner, ‘C’, asked him,

“Speaking of the need for special services, have you ever met with a deaf person who could follow an ordinary discourse, by watching the lips of the speaker?”
“No, never; only a few who could with more or less difficulty make out short sentences uttered in an exaggerated manner by the speaker.  […] To suppose that children educated on the oral system can read everybody’s lips, even if everybody is patient enough to try them, is fallacious; and to assert that they can follow an ordinary viva voce lecture or sermon, is absurd.  The training of the mind of the deaf is more perfectly accomplished by the manual method and writing.  Many of the graduates of the oral system have a very poor grasp of language, and a very inferior mental development, as a consequence of their having been forced through many weary years to learn mere articulation and lip-reading.” (Ephphatha, p.67)

Mrs Russell jubilee ticketAgar took photos when he was in the Staffordshire mission, many being stuck into the annual reports that we have for the mission.  I expect that these were Agar’s own copies and that they were donated or willed to the library when Agar died in 1956, aged 91.  Unfortunately for us, this means that his photos are still in copyright for another ten years, so without knowing who inherited the copyright and holds it at present, we cannot legally reproduce his photos taken in the 1890s.

Rosa died in 1942, after fifty years of marriage.

Mr Russell Agar, an interview.  Ephphatha, vol.4 p.66-7, 1899

Russell, Agar, Surdus – Reminiscences.  Unpublished manuscript in library.

1891 Census – Class: RG12; Piece: 2229; Folio: 20; Page: 34; GSU roll: 6097339

Merry Yule & Happy New Year!

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 23 December 2016

Away until the 3rd of January 2017.Silent World 1948

The early NID Technical Department, Dennis B. Fry and Péter B. Dénes of UCL

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 23 December 2016

UCL has had an association with the RNID/Action on Hearing Loss Library since the early 1990s when the library moved into the Royal National Throat Nose and Ear Hospital alongside the then Institute of Laryngology Library.  However there is a much older association between UCL and what was then the NID.

Giant hearing Aid War time developments in electronics ushered in an era when mass hearing aids would be small enough to be convenient to carry around, and cheap enough for the state to introduce the Medresco hearing aid supplied by the new NHS from 1948.  The previous year the transistor had been unveiled by Bell labs in the US, an invention that would change the world.

For many years the NID had been concerned over the quality of hearing aids and they way they were marketed to the public.  They worked with manufacturers and suppliers to create an agreement whereby the supplier made no claims about curing deafness, as had often been the case with quack sellers, and broadly to not bully clients into buying unwanted devices.  They also created an approved list of suppliers who signed up to the agreement.  This was a slightly tortuous process, and for those interested a visit to the library to read NID minutes would be essential.  The list is attached here: NID approved list

Anechoic ChamberIn 1947 The NID set up a technical department, at the behest of the Medical Committee (Annual Report, 1947 p.9).  At the time they were in 105 Gower Street, and did not have facilities, so initially UCL helped out, and Dennis Butler Fry (1907-84) led the efforts to establish testing to show the ‘technical characteristics and qualities of the various hearing aids’ which were available, and then publish this scientific information to the public (Denes & Fry p.304).

Fry was born on the 3rd of November, 1907, in Stockbridge, Hampshire, son of Fred Cornelius Fry and Jane Ann Butler.

After five years of teaching French, first at Tewkesbury Grammar School and then at Kilburn Grammar School, in 1934 he was appointed Assistant Lecturer in Phonetics at University College London, where he also became Superintendent of the Phonetics Laboratory in 1937.  In 1938 he was promoted to Lecturer in Experimental Phonetics. In 1948, the year after the award of his Ph.D. degree, he became Reader in Experimental Phonetics.  From 1958 until his retirement in 1975, he was Professor of Experimental Phonetics, the first one to hold the title in Britain. (Obituary for Dennis Butler Fry, Arthur S. Abramson

The 1947 annual report records that with the co-operation of Sir David Pye, UCL provost and mechanical engineer who worked on jet engines during the war, they were setting up a special sound-proof room, and that technical staff would be trained at the college, all under the supervision of Fry.  Fry had served in the RAF during the war, at the Acoustics Research Laboratory, Central Medical Establishment, at Kelvin House, 24-32 Cleveland Street, London.  Together with his colleague Péter B. Dénes (1920-96), a Hungarian phonetician who became a British citizen, but spent much of his later working life in the USA.  The books of Fry and Dénes (usually written Denes) on phonetics are still in use today.  Fry founded the journal Speech and Language in 1958. He wrote two books with Edith Whetnall (they are pictured together below), The Deaf Child, and Learning to Hear.

Denes had left Hungary in the 1930s and studied first at Manchester, before moving to UCL where he worked with Fry.  In 1961 he went to the USA on the Queen Mary to work at the Bell Labs (1996 obituary, see link below).  In his obituary, Michael Noll says,

Although Hungarian by birth, Peter was very much British by citizenship and personality. His knowledge of European history and views on events in America led to many lively discussions with his many friends and colleagues. Peter chose to remain a subject of the Queen of England, but he also chose to live in the United States.

The room in the basement of 105 was eventually fitted out for technical testing, along with the anechoic chamber.  In those days the road traffic would not have been as bad as now, and I suspect it would not have been possible to use it today, because of vibrations.  The first technician seems to have been Mr W.J. Markwick, who is mentioned in the 1950 annual report (p.33).  The Technical department became one of the most important areas for the NID in the following decade.

I am sure this would be an interesting area for research.  Denes and Fry were both interesting people who made significant contributions to speech and language research.

Fry Whetnall

Denes, P. and Fry, D.B. An Introduction to the NID Technical Research Laboratory

NID Annual Reports

Abramson, Arthur S. Obituary for Dennis Butler Fry. Speech Communication Volume 3, Issue 2, August 1984, Pages 167-168

http://www.phon.ucl.ac.uk/home/wells/fry-obit.htm

Noll, Michael, Acoust. Soc. Am., Vol. 100, No. 4, Pt. 1, October 1996, p.1916 http://asa.scitation.org/doi/pdf/10.1121/1.417840

Kenneth Walter Hodgson & “The Problems of the Deaf” (1953)

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 9 December 2016

Author of the famous book, The Deaf and Their Problems (1953), Kenneth Walter Hodgson is opaque in the records, with very little seeming to be found about him as a person other than records of the book.  The little to be found I discovered from a half page typescript of old library notes presumably from the 1970s, combined with the registration of his death.  As a few people have asked about him over the years, and we have been able to say nothing about him, I thought I would share what we do have.

He was born in West London on the 10th of June 1914, son of Walter Graham Hodgson, an electrical engineer from Birkenhead, and his wife, Emily Nott.  The information I have (from our very old library enquiry folder) tells us that he was educated at Sloane School, then Selwyn College, Cambridge as an Open Exhibitor in History, and then in King’s College, London.  He then taught for a few years in Liverpool slum schools until 1941, when he was called up.  That same year he married Dora Craven, and they had a son William Graham Hodgson, in 1942.*

Kenneth Hodgson went into the R.A.F. but suffered from poor health, and from 1944 he was teaching again.  He worked mainly with “handicapped and deprived children in poor districts.”  He then worked in a school for deaf children, but we are not told which one, unless he mentions it in the body of the text of The Deaf and Their Problems.  This work revealed to him a lack of literature available in England for candidates for the Diploma in Deaf Education.

The Deaf and Their Problems was intended to go some way toward meeting this lack in the “pure oralist”  tradition, then unquestioned by teachers of the deaf in England.  But the accumulation of evidence changed the book into an argument for experiment on much broader lines, including manual language.

The Deaf and Their Problems has an introduction by Sir Richard Paget.  A review in The Teacher of the Deaf for December 1953 (p.189-90), by Thomas J. Watson (1912-84), a teacher at Henderson Row and later at Manchester University as a lecturer, writing as ‘T.J.W.’, criticized the book:

In a book with such a title, one would expect to find a full discussion of the problems – educational, social and emotional – of deaf children and adults.  The title, however, is rather misleading, and one finds that two-thirds of the book are devoted to a history of the education of the deaf, and that only the first fifty-five and last sixty-seven pages discuss deafness and its problems.[…]
Mr Hodgson does present what appears to be some new material.  He is not, however, always careful about the accuracy of some of his statements. […]
How far it is justifiable to mix fact with comment is a matter of opinion, but it would be helpful if references were given for some of the statements made. […]
One cannot in fairness end a review of this book without saying that if the reader preserves an open mind, then both the history and the discussion of problems should be read and considered carefully.  The former will help towards a broader view of the present situation, and the latter will provoke thought. (ibid)

Conclusion HodgsonSome might say today that his historical section is possibly the most interesting part of the book.

The note we have says that some pure oralists tried to prevent publication of the book, though it typically and frustratingly offers no source for that statement, something which leads me to wonder if the note is based on information supplied by Hodgson.  The typescript page continues,

professional ostracism made continuance of work with the deaf impossible, and necessitated a return to the “hearing” world of education until a severe heart attack compelled retirement in 1969.  Since then, concerned with the teaching of spiritual philosophy and, with the founding of AMICI (Friends), to assist young people with drug problems.

He died in Surrey in 1983.  I did find a letter by him from 1957 in New Scientist, in which he says “our children remain handicapped and stunted by the arbitrary limitation of their teaching to speech as the only form of language.”

*We are told he was a rowing international, but I cannot find him in any online records.

If you knew him or have anything to add, please comment.

1911 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 277

“He did possess that indefinable quality which for want of a better word we term genius” – Leslie Edwards O.B.E., Deaf Missioner and Teacher

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 2 December 2016

Leslie Edwards was born in Wanstead, Essex, on the 27th of December, 1885, fourth of a remarkable thirteen children.  His father, Samuel, from Hackney, was a stock jobber and later a stockbroker’s clerk, while his mother Harriet, was born in Bethnal Green.  Leslie lost his hearing through meningitis when he was seven years old, according to both the 1911 and 1901 censuses, though the Teacher of the Deaf (ToD) says nine.  He was fortunate that his family learnt to finger-spell which helped his education he said (ToD, p.194).  “It was this personal experience which led him throughout his life to advocate the use of finger-spelling, not to supplant oralism, but to provide those accurate patterns of words and sentences so essential to the acquirement of fluency in the use of language” (ibid, p.194-5).  He was educated at the Manchester Institution, according to W.R. Roe in Peeps into the deaf world, and London according to the Teacher of the Deaf obituary (by W.C. Roe I believe).  Perhaps both are true, though London does seem more likely.

In 1900 he went to art school to train as an advertising artist (ToD p.195).  On leaving art school in 1903, he worked as a lithographer, according to the 1911 census, yet another of the large number of Deaf people who learnt that trade.  He became a lay reader at the Royal Association for the Deaf and Dumb mission in West Ham.

In 1912 Edwards became an assistant teacher at the East Anglian School for the Deaf in Gorleston, Suffolk.  While there he met Marion Thorp, a Yorkshire born teacher of the deaf who had previously trained under William Nelson in Stretford, at the Manchester Institution (Deaf School).  Her father Robert was a Church of England clergyman.  They were married in 1916, and had two children, a son and daughter (ToD p.195).

Edwards speechWe have a 17 page typescript speech on welfare work that he gave in June 1950 to the Torquay Conference for Teachers of the Deaf, when his obituary says he ‘possessed the art of “putting it across,”‘ in his ‘harsh’ but ‘perfectly intelligible’ speech (ToD p.195).  For those interested in the development of oralism v. manualism it is worth reading at greater length.

The Sign Language is essential.  The word language is not necessarily confined to words, my dictionary gives several definitions one of which is “any manner of expression.”  In so far then as signing conveys ideas, gives information and increases knowledge, it is not incorrect to speak of Sign Language.
No responsible person wants to sign if it can be avoided.
[….]
If signing is to be disregarded and as far as possible suppressed as has been the case for so many years what satisfactory alternative is proposed.  Is it not time to face up to the fact that efforts to suppress this natural instinct have not been successful and are bound to fail. (Edwards 1950, p.5)

He develops this line of thinking, further on saying,

Many of you learnt French at school and I think it is reasonable to suggest you acquired about as much understanding of that foreign language as the born deaf do of their Mother Tongue.  How many of you enjoy sitting down to read a French novel? (Edwards, 1950, p.6)

Leslie EdwardsFrom 1915 until his death, he was the missioner at Leicester Mission.  Related to that was his work as a founder of the Joint Examination Board for Missioners to the Deaf in 1929, which gave a diploma to missioners and welfare workers.

He was the honorary secretary-treasurer for the British Deaf and Dumb Association from 1935 to his death, and received the O.B.E. for his work with the deaf, in 1949 (ToD p.195).

Academic qualifications, to quote his own words, he had none.  He needed none.  He did possess that indefinable quality which for want of a better word we term genius.  Nature ordained that he should be an artist and in deference to her command he sought, for a time, to utilize the gifts she had bestowed on him.  But in early manhood he found his true vocation and from then throughout his life the over-ruling factor was his unwavering determination to serve his fellow deaf. (McDougal)

He died on the 3rd of October, 1951.

Ayliffe, E., Obituary. Deaf News, 1951, 188, insert.

Census 1891 – Class: RG12; Piece: 1352; Folio: 68; Page: 38; GSU roll: 6096462

Census 1901 – Class: RG13; Piece: 1621; Folio: 90; Page: 13

Census 1911 Edwards – Class: RG14; Piece: 9703; Schedule Number: 69

Census 1911 Thorp – Class: RG14; Piece: 23656; Page: 1

EDWARDS, L, Adult Deaf Welfare Work. 1950, p.2.

McDOUGAL, K.P. Leslie Edwards: an appreciation. Silent World, 1951, 6, 174.

Memorial to the late Leslie Edwards: Loughborough Church for the Deaf beautified. British Deaf News, 1955, 1, 10-12.

Opening programme, 18 July 1961. Leicester and County Mission for the Deaf, 1961. pp. 11-12.

ROE, W,R, Peeps into the deaf world, Bemrose, 1917, p. 388.

SMITH, A. Leslie Edwards, OBE: his early days. Books and Topics, 1951, 17, 6-7.

The late Leslie Edwards, OBE. Teacher of the Deaf, 1951, 49, 194-95.