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Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet:

By Shielonda Mikle
 March 16, 2003

Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet

             Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet was born December 10th in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the year of 1787 and raised in Hartford, Connecticut, birthplace of his maternal grandparents (  His parents, being of Huguenot origin and thoroughly grounded in the Protestant religion, had a profound effect in young Gallaudet's desire to become an ordained minister.  Thomas Gallaudet, abounding in intellectual abilities, excelled in many educational endeavors.  At the tender age of  fourteen (14) years, Gallaudet entered Yale University. He graduated first in his class in 1805 .

            After graduated from Yale, Gallaudet was not quite sure of the direction he wanted to proceed in terms of a career. He had many interests to include working in a trade, attending a seminary or perform in the capacity of a traveling salesman.  Temporarily, he worked as a legal apprentice before deciding to return to Yale University in 1808 as a graduate student whereupon he obtained a Masters of Arts degree.  Feeling called to the ministry, after some hesitation, he decided to enter the Theological Seminary at Andover in 1811.  He became an ordained minister at the age of twenty-seven (27) years old.

            Filled with compassion for the neglected people in society and aware of the non-availability of resources for the deaf, Gallaudet took on their cause. Of the many neglected people or those that could use assistance in society, it is unclear why Gallaudet chose to represent the deaf or why he was so profoundly affected by the conditions surrounding available resources.  Whatever his reasoning, he was highly motivated to assist in searching for the best methods of communication that he traveled to Europe at his own expense.  He became quite familiar with methods used in France as well as London. 

            Gallaudet, working as a traveling salesman, returned to Hartford, Connecticut where he met a prominent physician, Dr. Mason Cogswell and his daughter, Alice Cogswell.  Alice Cogswell was believed to be 4 years old at the time ( World Book Encyclopedia, p. 13 © 1994), however other sources state her age to be 9 years old (   Dr. Cogswell was thoroughly concerned about his daughter and her educational welfare.  Dr. Cogswell had heard about a family in England who had taught their deaf child to communicate using an oral method.  Gallaudet's goals for himself were placed on hold, when at the request of Dr. Mason Cogswell, he went to England to study the oral communication method used by the Braidwood family.  Upon arrival in England, Gallaudet met with some resistance as the Braidwood family was hesitant about revealing their methods.  Compounding Gallaudets difficulties was his inability to remain in England due to financial hardship.  He had learned of another method in France and at the request of a protégé' of Dr. Joseph Watson, he traveled to France to learn another method of communication. (  Familiar with the oral form of communication practiced by the Braidwood family as well as the method practiced in France, Gallaudet returned to the United States accompanied by an assistant, Laurent Clerc. Laurent Clerc, himself a dear student was an assistant to Dr. Joseph Watson and was very familiar with his method of teaching (Websters Biographical Dictionary, 1976).

            In 1817, Gallaudet opened the first American deaf school in Hartford, Connecticut (Encyclopedia Britannica, 1990).  Initially, he had seven students, one being Alice Cogswell.  Gallaudet's school, "The American School For The Deaf" originally opened as a private institution.  Gallaudet served as the principal of the school from 1817 until April 6, 1830 when he resigned to devote time to his ministry and the writing of children's books.  After leaving the Hartford School in Connecticut, Gallaudet championed another cause, that of educating African Americans. Gallaudet published many works.  Among his works are titles such as "Bible Stories for the Young," Child's Book of the Soul" (3d ed., 1850); "Sermons Preached to an English Congregation in Paris" (London,  1818); "Youth's Book of Natural Theology," and he also edited six volumes of "Annals of the Deaf and Dumb" (Hartford).  (

            Gallaudet fell in love with a pupil at the school and as soon as she graduated, they were married.  He married the former Sophia Fowler and to their union, eight children were born. (Encyclopedia of World Biography, 1998).  Two sons followed in their pioneering father's footsteps, one becoming a well-known Episcopalian minister for the deaf in New York City and the other son, Edward Miner Gallaudet founded the well-known school for the deaf, Gallaudet College in Washington, D.C.  Gallaudet College was named for the pioneer of deaf communications, Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet.  Gallaudet College later became Gallaudet University after being granted university status.  Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet died in Hartford, Connecticut on September 10, 1851 at 63 years old age following ill health.  


The  History of History of Gallaudet (1997, November 7). Retrieved March 10, 2003 , from Gallaudet University Website: center/ Gallaudet History.

Fetzer, S. (1994). World Book Encyclopedia, p. 13 (Vol. 8). Chicago: World Book, Inc. Goetz, P.W (1990). Britannica Micropedia, (15th ed.) (Vol. 5).  Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica.

"Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet." Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd ed. 17 Vols. Gale

Research, 1998. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: The Gale Group. 2003. http:// BioRC.

 Wilson, James Grant, ed. Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet. Retrieved March 9, 2003. thomashopkinsgallaudet.

Merriam G., &  Merriam C., (Eds.).(1976). Websters Biographical Dictionary. Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, p. 571


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