A A A

Archive for the 'Deaf History' Category

Alphabet, Manuel-Figure des Sourds-Muets de Naissance, An VIII (1799-1800)

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 17 March 2017

Alphabet 1A year or so ago we came across, in our French language collection, this extremely rare manual alphabet – Alphabet, Manuel-Figure des Sourds-Muets de Naissance.  It was printed in Paris, in an VIII, revolutionary year 8, which dates from the 23rd of September, 1799, to the 22nd of September, 1800.  That was the period when Bonaparte returned from Egypt and used his popularity to instigate the coup of  18 Brumaire, becoming ‘consul’ and virtual dictator.  It was possibly printed by the pupils (boys) of the Institution Nationale des Sourds-Muets à Paris, then under the principal, the Abbé Sicard.  Sicard had an extraordinary life, narrowly avoiding execution during the French Revolution in 1792, when he was arrested by the Revolutionary Commune for failing to take the oath of civil allegiance.  You can read about that in Harlan Lane’s book, When the Mind Hears (1984, see chapter 2 in particular), and in the more recent Abbé Sicard’s deaf education : empowering the mute, 1785-1820 (2015) by Emmet Kennedy.  The coup of 18 Fructidor sent Sicard into hiding, and he only emerged when Bonaparte came to power.  We have a copy of Sicard’s first book published in an VIII (year 8), Cours d’instruction d’un sourd-muet de naissance, pour servir a l’éducation des sourds-muets, but it appears that the sign alphabet that is supposed to be in it, is missing from the first edition we have.  Here it is from the back of the 1803 second edition.  Click for a larger size.Cours 1803

Was Alphabet, Manuel-Figure printed for the use of the pupils, or to sell in order to raise money?  Was it printed by the pupils, as an exercise, or a way of learning a trade?  I think we may well attribute Sicard as the man behind the publication, but perhaps it was just publicity material for the school with another teacher responsible.  It is beyond my expertise to say anything more about the Alphabet, so I present the printed pages.  It is not printed on every page, and I suspect it was printed on one sheet, then folded and cut, but if you have a more informed view about how it may have been laid out, please contribute below.

I think that this item is, as I said above, extremely rare, but it may well be unique.  The small plaque under each picture is probably aesthetic, but seems to me to make the pictures seem more ‘monumental’ and, if I dare use the term, (it may be legitimate here!), ‘iconic.’  Now compare the hand shapes in the 1803 alphabet above, with those in our 1799 one below.  See the interesting differences.  Is one drawn by a ‘reader’ of the signs, and one by the ‘speaker’, or is one drawn by the artist from his (or her) own hand shapes?  Is the 1799 Cours d’instruction alphabet different?  If both were by Sicard, would they not be identical, or could that just be a matter of the artist executing the engravings?

It measures approximately 14cm by 23cm.  We are in the process of getting many of these books, previously on card index only, onto the UCL catalogue, to make them more ‘visible’ to researchers.

The pages between those below, are blank.

Alphabet 2 Alphabet 3 Alphabet 4 Alphabet 5

Cours d’instruction d’un sourd-muet de naissance, pour servir a l’éducation des sourds-muets – on Google Books, unfortunately lacks the sign alphabet at the back.

The Rev. John Kinghan of Belfast Deaf Institution and Mission

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 10 March 2017

Kinghan mission churchThe Rev. John KINGHAN,  (1823-1895) was Principal of the Belfast Institution for the Deaf and Dumb.  Born in Ballymacarn, son of William Kinghan, John was educated at Dr. Blain’s Academy in Arthur Street, Belfast (see Obituary for what follows).  He went on to Belfast College, which was Presbyterian, obtaining his licence in 1852.  As early as 1845 we are told that he was giving instruction to Deaf and Dumb pupils in the Institution in Lisburn Road.  He may have met Charles Rhind at that time as he was Principal there for a while.  This was, of course, the period of the great famine in Ireland.  In May 1853 Kinghan took over from Rhind’s successor and predecessor, the Rev. John Martin, who then emigrated to America, being unanimously chosen from a list of nine candidates.  He remained at the school for the rest of his life, though after two bouts of illness he had to withdraw from much of the management work at the school in 1879 and 1884. He does not appear to have done anything particularly extraordinary or remarkable.

No one familiar with this Institution can overlook the lengthened and valuable services of the Rev. John Kinghan.  This gentleman has for so many years been identified with its working that he has come to be regarded as the Society itself.  His devotion to the cause of the deaf and dumb and the blind is widely known, and he has the satisfaction of seeing now a marvellous development of a work in the Institution, of which he was the leading figure.  His efforts have been ably seconded by Mr. James Bryden, the Head Master, a zealous and accomplished teacher, and Mr. John Beattie, the first assistant who graduated in the concern and is acquainted with all the details. (from Quarterly Review of Deaf-Mute Education, 1891, quoting The Belfast News Letter, of 4th February, 1891).

On 17th of May 1857, Kinghan started a mission to the deaf, obtaining the use of a room in Sandy Row where he could hold services for the deaf of Belfast.  This later moved to the Great Victoria Street schoolhouse, and in 1878  a special building, “the Bethel,”was erected in Sandy Row.

Kinghan

Below is the back cover of the 1914 report, with a picture of the Jubilee Home for women which the mission ran.  I expect there is information on this in the British Deaf Times where the picture comes from.  I am not sure what year the home began or when it closed.  Do tell us if you know more about it in the comments field below.Jubilee Home deaf women

Obituary. British Deaf-Mute, 1895, 5, 25. (photo)

Quarterly Review of Deaf-Mute Education, 1891, 2, 262-69, 289-95.

Annual Reports 1909,1913, 1914, 1917, 1919, 1924, 1929, 1930, 1932, 1934, 1935, 1943, 1948

http://jordanstownschool.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/HisGov.pdf

His Family: 

http://www.thepeerage.com/p38223.htm#i382221

One of his female ancestors, Catherine Sheridan, had an argument with one of the last wolves in Donegal –  http://www.thesilverbowl.com/familytree/Dill_descendants.htm

His Church:

https://www.presbyterianireland.org/Mission/Mission-Projects/Kinghan-Church.aspx

“They become unconsciously genuine stupifying explainers” – French Oralist Jean-Jacques Valade-Gabel

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 3 March 2017

Valade-GabelJean-Jacques Valade-Gabel (1801-79) was a leading proponent of oral education for the deaf who was active in the middle of the nineteenth century.  I first came across him through the book of moral tales he wrote, translated into English by Charles Baker of the Yorkshire Institution.  I cannot give any details of his personal life, other than to say that his son Andre followed him into teaching the deaf.  He taught at the Paris Institution before moving to Bordeaux (American Annals of the Deaf, 1860).  Harlan Lane says that he was “fired from Bordeaux for mysterious reasons” (Lane, p.436, note 110).  What did he do that was so disgraceful?  It did not affect his later career it seems

Picture LessonsHe was, it seems, a disciple of Pestalozzi (who has been mentioned before on a post), taught in Paris from 1826 to 1838, was director of the National Institution at Bordeaux from 1838 till 1850, and later became Government inspector of the schools for the deaf in the 1860s, which must have put him in a powerful position to get his educational views instituted across France (The Association Review, 1902, p.274).  Our copy of Méthode à la portée des instituteurs primaires pour enseigner aux sourds-muets la langue française : sans l’intermédiare du langage des signes (1857) is signed by Valade-Gabel.  This was the book that set out his views in full, and in 1875 his method was officially recognised by the Ministry of the Interior (The Association Review, 1904, p.274).VG Deaf Boy

We have two copies of the translated Picture Lessons for Boys and Girls, one with the author’s introduction, where he indicates a disdain for signing.  It seems he gave emphasis to reading and writing.  He says,

The reproach addressed by Jacotot to those who too much distrust the penetration of children, falls directly on such teachers as are in the habit of constantly interposing signs between the deaf and dumb and written language.  They become unconsciously genuine stupifying explainers.  The more graceful and appropriate are the signs, so much more do they turn the pupils from the attention which must be given to writing, in order to obtain in it a sort of power interpretive of thought.  We know in a certain establishment a certain very distinguished master, who, nevertheless, has not succeeded in making a good scholar, for the sole reason that he does not know how properly to teach the deaf-mute to cope with the difficulties of reading. (p.vi)

In The Association Review, they say,

This untiring reformer introduced at the Bordeaux Institution the intuitive method in instruction in language in its written form. He attracted the attention of specialists to his method by annual courses and lectures from 1839 till 1850, and in 1857 published his famous work, “Method for the use of primary teachers for teaching the deaf the French language without the intermediary of the sign language.” This important work was favorably received by the leaders of the French education of the deaf; and in 1875 Valade-Gabel’s method was officially recognized by the Ministry of the Interior. This method which substituted the eye for the ear, employed writing, and abandoned signs as a means for learning language, was adopted either entirely or in conjunction with older methods by the majority of the French schools many years before the Milan Congress. (p.274)

They continue to explain something of his method (p.275): “Valade-Gabel’s method is based on two leading principles: the first, that language shall be taught without either methodical or natural gestures, and the second, that instead of begin- ning with words, developing and explaining them, each one by itself, the beginning should be made with sentences.”

VG Deaf and Dumb Man

Above are two pages from the Picture Lessons.  Note that this last picture below, shows a child – a ‘chatterer,’ – signing to his fellow.  “They are chatters when they make any unmeaning or unnecessary signs.” Chatterer

I think that the poet, Leon Valade, may have been his son, or a relative.  Please add a note in the comments if you can provide any additional information about Valade-Gabel.

Arnaud, Sabine, Fashioning a Role for Medicine: Alexandre-Louis-Paul Blanchet and the Care of the Deaf in Mid-nineteenth-century France.  Soc Hist Med (2015) 28 (2): 288-307

Fourth Report of the Institution for the Deaf at Venersborg, Sweden… The Association Review, 1902, Vol.4 p.272–8

Lane, Harlan, When the Mind Hears, a History of the Deaf.  

Picture Lessons for Boys and Girls [review] American Annals of the Deaf, 1860 Vol 12, p.191-2

Quartararo, Anne T.,  The Perils of Assimilation in Modern France: The Deaf Community, Social Status, and Educational Opportunity, 1815-1870.  Journal of Social History, Vol. 29, No. 1 (Autumn, 1995), pp. 5-23

Valade-Gabel, J-J., Picture Lessons for Boys and Girls, Translated and adapted by Charles Baker. 1860, London, Wertheim and Macintosh

Valade-Gabel, J-J,, The Institutions for the Deaf and Dumb in France

A picture of Valade-Gabel is on this interesting Danish website

“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 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.

 

“I know that the deaf can do everything the hearing can do” – Noel G Maddison, chemist

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 25 November 2016

Cecil Guy Noel Brunning Maddison (though he chose to use Noel as a first name) was a son of Frederick and Adela Maddison (or Brunning Maddison). He was born in 1888.  His mother was a very talented musician, composing songs and possibly having a liaison with Fauré.  He was born deaf.  His father was a well-known footballer, an Oxford educated solicitor in the City of London.  As we see from the record below, he was admitted to the Fitzroy Square School under Van Praagh when he was five and a half years old.  His attendance was irregular according to the entry, missing whole terms, and he left in July 1903 it seems (though the writing is a little indistinct) with his parents owing £42 (see the school register in our library archive).  It looks as if his childhood must have been disrupted by the unusual family circumstances.  The BDT article (from which we milk most of the following), says he was eight years at Fitzroy Square, leaving aged thirteen to be privately taught for two years, before studying under H.N. Dixon at Northampton for three more years.Noel 2  In The Arnold Way by Tony Boyce (2008), we learn that he was at the school from 1903-7, and that he was then at Northampton Technical School (p.14 and 96).  He was assisted by Mr Ince-Jones, who went over the notes of another student with him as Noel could not follow the oral lectures.  We may suppose that he did something similar in the university.

He studied chemistry there under Ince-Jones, before getting a place at the Royal College of Science, a part of Imperial College, having convinced them he was capable.  The BDT interviewed Maddison in 1909 –

“Of course, it was very difficult for me at first,” says Mr. Maddison, “but I was not discouraged, and always worked hard at home in the evenings as well as at College.”
[…]
“I think it is very foolish of the deaf to make their deafness an excuse for not succeeding,” he says.  “I know that the deaf can do everything the hearing can do – even play a piano without being able to hear it.”

Noel MaddisonNoel married Mildred Johnson in 1933, and died in Bournemouth at 47 Hill View Road, on the 16th of November, 1955, but I can find no more about him.  He may have had an inheritance from his parents that enabled him to move away from London.  In his will he left £7,319 3s 9d, quite a large sum in 1955 (see probate records).  It is possible that the Imperial College archives might have some records regarding his time there.  His wife died in 1994.

If you know anything of his later life, please leave a comment.

[Updated 29/11/2016 with reference to the book mentioned by Geoff Eagling in the comments, to whom thanks]

1901 Census Class: RG13; Piece: 116; Folio: 61; Page: 4

1911 Census Class: RG14; Piece: 115

Mr. Noel G. Maddison – Biographical Sketch of a Brilliant Deaf Student.  British Deaf Times, June 1909, Vol. 6 no.66, p.139-40

Silent Worker, 1910, vol 22 (9) p.177

Tony Boyce, The Arnold Way, British Deaf History Society, 2008.

Free BMD

See also here.