X Close

UCL Ear Institute & Action on Hearing Loss Libraries


Information on the UCL Ear Institute & Action on Hearing Loss Libraries


“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, and a grandson of the music publisher Samuel Chappell, his mother a composer and musician.  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 and Ince Jones 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 MaddisonHe was assisted to obtain a post by Sir Edward Thorpe, with Cecil H. Cribb, F.I.C., public analyst to the City of Westminster and Metropolitan Borough of Fulham, where he remained for five years.  He then went to work at Vickers, Crayford, where he was Chief Assistant Chemist for five years, and was the last to leave when the chemical laboratories closed in 1921 (Maddison’s letter to Ephphatha).  From there he went to work manufacturing the NOMA aluminium powder – see link below.

Noel married Mildred Johnson in 1933, and died in Bournemouth at 47 Hill View Road, on the 16th of November, 1955, having had a son, James Frederick Augustus, in 1937, 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, or it may be money he earned from his own hard work and his invention.  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]

[Updated 16/6/2017 and again 15/9/2017]

See also blog entry NOMA: ‘Invented by a deaf man … please use it and tell your friends to do same’

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

1911 Census Class: RG14; Piece: 115

Maddison, Noel T., Letter in Ephphatha, Spring 1927 p.1093 

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.

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

  • 1
    Geoffrey Eagling wrote on 29 November 2016:

    There is a bit more about Noel Maddison in Anthony J. Boyce’s The Arnold Way, A brief history and pictorial record of the Northampton High School for the Deaf 1868-1945. I believe AoHL Library has a copy.

  • 2
    Melinda Napier wrote on 29 November 2016:

    He was a member of National Deaf Club and was the founder and Hon. Secretary of National Deaf football club. I have photos, etc but do not know about his later life.

  • 3
    Geoffrey Eagling wrote on 16 June 2017:

    Not sure about this but it may be useful for genealogy purposes.
    James Frederick Augustus Brunning-Maddison was baptised on 9th October 1937 in St. John’s, Hartley Wintney, Hampshire. Unfortunately his parents were not mentioned. This source is from the Sussex Deaf and Dumb Association Gazette, vol.II, 1937-40. Not sure if he was the son of above as I do not have a copy of vol.I, 1934-37.

  • 4
    NOMA: ‘Invented by a deaf man … please use it and tell your friends to do same’ | UCL UCL Ear Institute & Action on Hearing Loss Libraries wrote on 16 June 2017:

    […] our surprise there is no W Maddison. Instead Noma was invented – and patented by – Noel G. Maddison, who regular readers will recall we wrote about last November. It seems most likely that Noma was […]