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"Reverend Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet"

By Emma Patek

Reverend Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet was born on December 10th, 1787 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. When he was 13 years old his family moved to Connecticut. After staying back as a youth minister for awhile, he eventually had to follow them to Connecticut due to health issues. There he attended Yale University where he first earned his bachelor's degree and later his master's. In 1814, Gallaudet became a preacher after graduating from Andover Theological Seminary after two years of study. However, the ambition he had to become a professional minister was put on pause when he met Alice Cogswell, the deaf daughter of his neighbor, Dr. Mason Cogswell.

Alice Cogswell became deaf and mute after losing her hearing after battling a prolonged high fever at the age of two (, Para 6). Gallaudet took great interest in Alice. He wanted to find a way for her to become educated so that she was not stuck in her own world by herself. After learning about deaf schools in Europe he discussed the idea of sending her there with her father, Dr. Mason Cogswell. The Cogswell family decided they did not want to send their daughter away, but she did need to be educated. Their solution was that they needed a school for the deaf here in America. It was decided that Gallaudet was to be the principal and that he were to travel to Europe and study their methods of teaching (, Para 2). After studying in Europe for a year or so, he returned home. With him he brought Laurent Clerc who was a teacher at the Royal Institution in Europe (, Para 3).

Together Clerc and Gallaudet began raising funds to begin the school in the United States (, Para 3). Originally named the "Connecticut Asylum for the Education and Instruction of Deaf and Dumb Persons" the first school for the deaf in America opened April of 1817 in Hartford, Connecticut. Eventually it was renamed the "American School for the Deaf" (Enders, Para 10). The first class held in the school had a size of eight students. Students began to learn at an incredible pace and by the time the first winter ended enrollment had increased to thirty students. The school was even visited by the president, James Monroe, in the first school year. Thomas served as the school principal from 1817-1830.

In 1821 Thomas married a student of his, Sophia Fowler (Enders, Para 13). Together Thomas and Sophia had eight children, all with good hearing. Even after leaving the school in about 1830 Thomas still continued to advocate for the deaf. It was not until 1851 when Gallaudet finally lost the battle with the lung disease he had since his childhood. It was then that his youngest son Edward began his work. Edward began advocating for the deaf community and deaf education the same way his father had. Since Thomas had already built the first deaf school in the United States, Edward made it his goal to start the first college for the deaf. Eventually, with the help and support of President Abraham Lincoln, Edward began the first college for the deaf by changing Columbia Institution to Gallaudet University. Alumni of the college insisted on it being named Gallaudet University in memory and honor for all the hard work Thomas Gallaudet did benefiting the deaf community.

Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet played an extraordinary role in not only familiarizing others with the deaf, but also with advancing deaf education. Thanks to Gallaudet's work, the students at the American School for the Deaf received enough funding and were able to be taught American Sign Language and lip reading. American Sign Language was offered in large part to Thomas Gallaudet as well. Thomas devoted what ended up being the majority of his life in making people who were deaf equal with others. It is because of him and his efforts that they are able to blend in so well now in society.

"American School for the Deaf." American School for the Deaf History. N.p., 2015. Web. 15 June 2016.

"The Definition of Deaf." N.p., n.d. Web. 15 June 2016.

Enders, Katalin. "Gallaudet, Thomas Hopkins." Learning to Give. N.p., 2003. Web. 30 May 2016.

"The Legacy Begins." Gallaudet University. N.p., 2002. Web. 15 May 2016.


Also see: "Alice Cogswell"


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