“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. 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.”
He 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.