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60 BC

Socrates (469 BC – 399 BC) who is known as the father of Western philosophy, believed that deaf people were incapable of language and thought.

350 BC

Deaf Plato (427 BC – 347 BC) wrote dialogue with Socrates in his book “Cratylus.”

355 BC

Aristotle, an ancient Greek philosopher and one of the greatest intellectual figures of Western history, wrote that hearing was essential to developing and contributing to intelligence.  He believed that those who were born deaf became senseless and incapable of reason.

29 AD

Ephphatha (“Be opened”) was uttered by Jesus Christ when healing a man who was deaf and dumb (Mark 7:34). The word, “Ephphatha” was engraved on the American Asylum for the Deaf seal in 1835 and the Gallaudet Monument in 1854. It served as the motto for many schools for the deaf.

1st century AD

Quintus Pedius, the grandson of a Roman consul, was the first deaf person in recorded history known by name and his education is the first recorded of a deaf child.  He was mentioned in a single passage of the Natural History, one of the largest single works to have survived the Roman Empire by the Roman author, Pliny the Elder who began the book in 77 AD and died in 79 AD. Pedius received instruction in painting and became a talented painter, but died in his youth about the age of 13.

354 AD – 430 AD

Saint Augustine of Hippo, an early Christian theologian and philosopher, believed that “faith cometh by hearing” so deafness was a hindrance to faith.  However, he believed that deaf people could learn and thus were able to receive faith and salvation.  His writings referred to use of gestures and his view that these modes were capable of transmitting thought and belief.

673/674 – 735

Saint Bede the Venerable, was an Anglo-Saxon Benedictine monk who described a system for representing the alphabet using fingers over 1000 years before de l’Epee borrowed the manual alphabet from Spanish monks.  He also wrote the first known account of an attempt to teach a deaf person to speak.

Unknown – 721

Saint John of Beverly, an English bishop of York, is possibly the earliest recorded teacher of the deaf.  According to Bede the Venerable who wrote biblical and historical books, St. John reportedly taught “the dumb boy of Hexham” to speak the letters of the alphabet and a few words.  St. John is considered the patron saint of teachers of the deaf.

1443 – 1485

Rodolphus Agricola, a Dutch/German humanist, was the first Renaissance scholar to take an interest in educating the deaf.  He believed that a person born deaf could express himself by putting down his thoughts in writing.  His statement in a book published in 1515 was one of the earliest positive statements about the deaf on record.

1501 – 1576

Girolamo Cardano, an Italian mathematician and physician, observed that signs could be used to represent abstract ideas and was among the first to challenge Aristotle’s belief that hearing was a requirement for understanding.  He urged teaching the deaf to read and write.

1520 – 1584

Pedro Ponce de Leon, a Spanish Benedictine monk, is believed to have been the first person to develop a method for teaching the deaf.

1526 – 1593

Fray Melchor de Yebra, a Spanish Franciscan monk, is credited with publishing the oldest physical record of a manual alphabet in Madrid in 1593.  He indicated that the alphabet he was presenting was by Fray Juan de Fidanza also known as San Buenaventura.  There was also controversy over whether Juan Pablo de Bonet copied the manual alphabet from de Yebra.

1567 – 1622

St. Francis de Sales created a sign language so he could communicate with a poor deaf-mute named Martin.  He was able to instruct him about faith and morality and because of this de Sales became the patron saint of the deaf.

1540 – 1600

Salomon Alberti, a German physician, and anatomist published the first known book of any kind regarding deafness.  He stated that deaf people were rational and capable of thought even though they lacked speech.

1573 – 1633

Juan Pablo de Bonet, a Spanish priest and pioneer of education for the deaf, published the first modern system of signs and manual alphabet in 1620 which influenced many sign languages such as Spanish Sign Language, the French Sign Language and the American Sign Language.

1586 – 1647

Rev. Thomas Hooker, known as the “Father of Connecticut” was a prominent Puritan leader who led his congregation from Boston to Hartford and founded the Colony of Connecticut. He founded Hartford’s oldest congregation in 1637 and the Latin School in 1638 (now Hartford Public High School) which is the third oldest school in the United States. Inspired by a speech delivered by Rev. Hooker, the Puritans of Connecticut created the first framework of written laws that became the first complete written constitution in the history of the world. Thomas H. Gallaudet’s mother, Jane Hopkins, was a sixth-generation descendant of the Hooker family.

1593 – 1682

Governor Thomas Mayhew, Sr., the Elder established the first English settlement of Martha’s Vineyard.  Eighteen deaf Islanders who attended ASD were descendants of Thomas Mayhew, Sr., and his son.

1615 – 1697

William Holder, D.D., was an English clergyman and musical theorist who gained a reputation for teaching a deaf man, Alexander Popham to speak “plainly and distinctly”.  He published a book of his teaching methods, “Elements of Speech” in 1669.

1616 – 1703

Dr. John Wallis, an English clergyman and mathematician who helped to develop the calculus, taught two deaf mutes including Alexander Popham to use speech and lip-reading.  He claimed credit for Popham’s success and as involved in devising a system for teaching deaf-mutes.

1644 – 1648

John Bulwer (1606 – 1656) was a British physician and philosopher who was the first in England to propose educating the deaf.  He published the first English books on deaf education and language which included the British two-handed method of fingerspelling.  Lydia Sigourney, who founded a private school for girls, used the British method of fingerspelling with Alice Cogswell who became the first deaf student at the first school for the deaf in Hartford, CT.

1657 – 1738

Jonathan Lambert was the first known deaf person to move to the Martha’s Vineyard in 1694.  He used the Old Kent Sign Language (OKSL) and it became the Martha’s Vineyard Sign Language (MSVL). He served on a military expedition to Quebec in 1690 under Sir William Philips. He bought a tract of Vineyard land (Lambert’s Cove) in 1694.

1669 – 1724

Johann Conrad Amman, a Swiss physician and instructor of deaf persons, was one of the earliest writers on the instruction of the non-verbal deaf.  His primary speech therapy involved imitation of lip and larynx movements.

1669 – 1750

Etienne de Fay is recognized by the French Deaf as the first deaf teacher to educate other deaf children using sign language.  He was born deaf and instructed by the monks at Abbey Saint-Jean.  He became an accomplished architect as well as a librarian and began instructing other deaf children at the abbey.


Captain Philip Nelson may have been the first to attempt to teach a deaf boy, Isaac Kilbourne* of Rowley, Massachusetts how to speak.  He pretended to cure a deaf-mute boy in his church by reciting “Ephphatha” but failed in his efforts.

*Samuel Thomas Greene (ASD Class of 1862) – his great-grandfather Thomas Green married the former Lydia Kilbourne in 1769. Lydia’s great-uncle had a deaf son, Isaac Kilbourne.


George Dalgarno, a Scottish philosopher, published the Didascalocophus or the Deaf and Dumb Man’s Tutor, which supported the use of fingerspelling and gestures in the education of the deaf.  Alexander Graham Bell was believed to have borrowed his methods to create a tactile glove using points on the hand to indicate specific speech sounds.

1698 – 1774

Henry Baker, an English naturalist, and poet, became a successful therapist of deaf people after working with the deaf-mute daughter of a relative.  He had a lucrative practice and kept his teaching methods secret until his death.


Dr. Pierre E. Gallaudet, a physician, fled persecution by the Huguenots in France and sailed to New York.  He was one of the founders of New Rochelle, NY.  Rev. Thomas H. Gallaudet was the fourth-generation descendant of Dr. Pierre E. Gallaudet.

1712 – 1789

The Abbe Charles-Michel de l’Epee met two young deaf sisters and dedicated himself to the education of the deaf.  He founded the first public school for the deaf in the world in Paris, France and developed a system for spelling out French words using a manual alphabet.

1715 – 1780

Jacob R. Pereira, who was born in Spain, first used fingerspelling with his deaf-mute sister.  He became a pioneer in teaching deaf mutes and the creation of sign language in France.

1730 – 1779

Elisha Gallaudet, who was Peter Wallace Gallaudet’s uncle (father of Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet), engraved the first U.S. coin, the 1776 Continental Dollar.  His work on the coin was based on sketches believed to have been provided by Benjamin Franklin.

1747 – 1822

Abbe Roch-Ambroise Sicard, succeeded l’Epee as principal at the institute for the deaf and met Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet while traveling in England and invited him to visit the school.

1756 – 1843

Peter Wallace Gallaudet, father of Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, was a soldier in the American Revolutionary War and a personal secretary to US President George Washington.  His son, Thomas H. Gallaudet, became one of the founders of ASD and his grandson, Edward Miner Gallaudet, became the superintendent of a school which led to the establishment of Gallaudet College.


Institut National de Jeunes Sourds de Paris (also known as the Royal Institution of Deaf Mutes), the world’s first free school for the deaf, was founded by Charles-Michel de l’Epee in Paris, France.

1760 – 1780

Thomas Braidwood founded the Academy for the Deaf and Dumb in Edinburgh, Scotland.  A second one was established in England after the first one closed.

1761 – 1830

Dr. Mason Fitch Cogswell, a prominent surgeon and father of Alice Cogswell, played an important role in the founding of the Connecticut Asylum for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb Persons which later became the American School for the Deaf.

1773 – 1850

William Mercer was one of the first earliest deaf American artists.  His father was General Hugh Mercer who died of wounds at the Battle of Princeton during the Revolutionary War.  Under the guidance of noted portraitist Charles William Peale who painted portraits of Laurent Clerc, his wife, Eliza and their daughter Elizabeth, Mercer became a distinguished portrait painter.

1777 – 1782

Noah Fowler, Sophia Fowler Gallaudet’s grandfather was a Minutemen captain who marched on the Lexington Alarm, the first battle of the Revolutionary War on April 19, 1775.


Samuel Heinicke (1727-1790) originated the oral deaf education system and founded the first German institute for deaf-mute children in Leipzig which was the first government-funded school of its kind worldwide.

1742 – 1809

Francis Green is considered the first American to have written a book on deaf education and to advocate for free education of all deaf children in America but did not succeed in establishing a school.  His family moved to England prior to the Revolutionary War and in 1780, his deaf son, Charles Green was enrolled at the Braidwood Academy, the fourth deaf American student there.  Charles learned both signs and speech but tragically died at age 15 by drowning.

1752 – 1817

Timothy Dwight, IV, was Yale University’s eighth president whose beliefs of Christian paternalism and benevolence towards the less fortunate had a profound influence on Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet while he was a student there.  Dwight IV served as the Connecticut Asylum Board Director from 1816 until his death in 1817.

1766 – 1854

John Brewster, Jr., the son of a prominent physician and a descendant of one of New England’s oldest Puritan families, was among the first to enroll at the Connecticut Asylum in 1817 at age 51.  He was a successful portrait artist whose works can be found in museum collections in several Eastern states.

1785 – 1869

Louis Laurent Marie Clerc was a deaf teacher born in France who helped to establish the first school for the deaf in America.  He is regarded as the most renowned deaf person in American Deaf History and the “Apostle of the Deaf in America”.

1791 – 1865

Lydia Huntley Sigourney was Alice Cogswell’s first teacher.  Lydia ran a school for girls from Hartford’s elite families, including the Cogswell family, at Daniel Wadsworth’s mother’s house.  She taught Alice using gestures and fingerspelling for several years before the Connecticut Asylum, now known as the American School for the Deaf, opened in 1817.


Abbe Sicard, also known as a non-conforming priest, managed to escape the guillotine during the French Revolution before becoming director of the Paris institute for the deaf.


Dr. William Thornton, the first to head the U.S. Patent Office and also architect of the U.S. Capital was the first to call the attention of the American press to the education needs of deaf people.  His essay “On Teaching the Surd, or Deaf and Consequently Dumb, to Speak” was published in the Transaction of American Philosophical Society.

1794 – 1845

William Channing Woodbridge, an American geographer, educational reformer, and author of many geography textbooks, taught briefly at the Connecticut Asylum, leaving in 1820 to travel to Europe.

1787 – 1851

Reverend Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet was an American minister and educator who co-founded the Connecticut Asylum for the Education and Instruction of Deaf and Dumb Persons (now known as the American School for the Deaf).


Alice Cogswell, the daughter of Dr. Mason Fitch Cogswell and his wife, was born on August 31 in Hartford, CT.  She was the inspiration for the establishment of the first school for the deaf which represented an extraordinary breakthrough for deaf education in America.


Rev. John Stanford, D.D., Chaplain to the Humane and Criminal Institutions, met several deaf children at the New York City almshouse where he preached and attempted to teach them.


Col. William Bolling hired John Braidwood (grandson of the Braidwood School founder) to teach his deaf children in Virginia.  His children, Mary and William became the first deaf children in America to receive formal classroom instruction.


    • The Braidwood Institute for the Deaf and Dumb, the first institution for teaching the deaf in America, opened at the home of the Bolling family in Virginia. The school used the British sign language to educate the deaf students. It closed a year and half later.
    • Ten prominent Hartford residents, also known as the Ten Benefactors, met at Dr. Mason F. Cogswell’s home to fund a school for the deaf in America and send Thomas H. Gallaudet to Europe.
    • Thomas H. Gallaudet set sail for Liverpool, England aboard the ship “Mexico” on May 25th.  Among the passengers was Washington Irving, author of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle.
    • Thomas H. Gallaudet met Dr. Joseph Watson, a nephew of Thomas Braidwood and Headmaster of London Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb.  One of Dr. Watson’s former students was England’s first deaf barrister, John William Lowe.  Gallaudet also met Rev. John Townsend who established the Asylum for the Support and Education of Deaf and Dumb Children of poor in London.
    • Thomas H. Gallaudet found a handbill of a two-day public lecture given by Abbe Sicard, Director of the Institution for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb, in Brighton, England.  After meeting Sicard, Jean Massieu and Laurent Clerc there, Sicard invited Gallaudet to visit the institution in Paris.  Gallaudet studied there for several months.


    • An Act to Incorporate the Connecticut Asylum for the Education and Instruction of Deaf and Dumb Persons was written by Charles Denison, Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Cotton Smith, Governor of Connecticut and Thomas Day, Secretary.  The By-Laws were written by John Caldwell, Chairman and Henry Hudson, Board Secretary.
    • Thomas H. Gallaudet persuaded Laurent Clerc to accompany him to America on the ship “Mary Augusta”.  During the voyage that took fifty-two days, Laurent Clerc kept a diary.
    • The Connecticut legislature granted $5,000, the first public grant for special education in the United States.


    • President James Monroe, the fifth President of the United States visited the Connecticut Asylum.  His visit led to the creation of the “president” ASL sign based on the tricorn hat he wore.


    • A Proclamation to recognize the Connecticut Asylum for the Education and Instruction of Deaf and Dumb Persons was signed by Governor Oliver Wolcott.
    • The federal government recognized the American Asylum by appropriating it a land grant in Alabama, which the school sold to establish its endowment.
    • Laurent Clerc married Eliza C. Boardman, a former student at the Connecticut Asylum on May 3, 1819


The Pennsylvania School for the Deaf was founded in Philadelphia.  Laurent Clerc served briefly as principal there.


    • The school moved to Lord’s Hill, now Asylum Hill on Asylum Street.  Today it is the site of The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc.


The Kentucky Asylum for the Tuition of the Deaf and Dumb in Danville became the first state supported school for the deaf.


Major General Marquis de Lafayette of France visited the American Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb.  The children from the school wore badges inscribed “We feel what our country expresses” when greeting Lafayette.

1825 – 1864

A group of students from Martha’s Vineyard came to the American Asylum with a signed language of their own contributing to the mix of Laurent Clerc’s French Sign Language and other students’ home signs that eventually developed into American Sign Language (ASL).


The first African American student to enroll at ASD was Charles Hiller, of Nantucket, MA.  Connecticut passed a law in 1833 (repealed in 1838) to forbid the education of African American students from outside the state, yet ASD continued to operate in violation of the state law.


    • Dr. Mason Fitch Cogswell and Alice Cogswell both died within two weeks of each other in December of that year.
    • Rev. Thomas H. Gallaudet retired from his position as Principal at the American Asylum but continued to be on the Board of Directors at the school.


President Andrew Jackson, the 7th President of the United States visited the American Asylum with his Vice President Martin Van Buren who later became the 8th President of the United States in 1837.


    • Rev. Thomas H. Gallaudet became a chaplain at the Hartford Retreat for the Insane.  He was also a volunteer chaplain of the Hartford County jail from 1837 to 1844.


Thomas H. Gallaudet and Laurent Clerc facilitated initial communication with jailed Mende African captives from the Spanish ship La Amistad.  After former President John Quincy Adams successfully defended the Mende Africans before the U.S. Supreme Court, they were freed in 1841.


    • Charles Dickens, one of the greatest British novelists, visited the American Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb.


The American Annals of the Deaf and Dumb, the oldest and most widely read professional journal dedicated to quality in deaf education was first established and published at the American Asylum.  Luzerne Rae, a hearing teacher at the American Asylum, was the first editor from 1847 to 1861.


Over 400 American Asylum graduates gathered at the Center Congregational Church in Hartford on September 26 to show their love, admiration and appreciation for their first teachers, Thomas H. Gallaudet and Laurent Clerc, and present each with a custom engraved coin silver pitcher and salver.


    • Rev. Thomas H. Gallaudet died on September 10th at age 64.


    • The Gallaudet Monument was dedicated on the front lawn of the American Asylum for the Deaf in Hartford on September 6th.


Rev. Heman Humphrey, D.D., was the Rev. Thomas H. Gallaudet’s Yale College classmate in 1805. He was the second president of Amherst College for 22 years. Humphrey wrote “Life and Labors of Rev. Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, LL.D.” in 1857.


Laurent Clerc retired from his position as teacher at the American Asylum at age 73 after having taught there for 41 years.

1860 – 1869

The Gallaudet Guide and Deaf-Mute’s Companion was published in Boston, MA by the New England Gallaudet Association of Deaf Mutes from January 1860 to September 1862.  William Martin Chamberlain was the first deaf editor of the newspaper.  The National Deaf-Mute Gazette was published in Boston, MA from January 1867 to December 1868.  The Deaf-Mutes’ Friend was published in Henniker, NH and Boston, MA by Willian Sweet & William Martin Chamberlain from January 1869 to December 1869.


The Hartford Bank issued a five-dollar note featuring a vignette of the American Asylum and a portrait of Thomas H. Gallaudet.


    • Laurent Clerc at age 79 attended the Inauguration for the College of the Deaf and Dumb in Washington, D.C. on June 28th, giving his last public address.


Laurent Clerc died on July 18 at age 83 in Hartford.


Alexander Graham Bell spent two months at the American Asylum introducing the System of Visible Speech and training teachers to give instruction in it.


The Clerc Memorial was dedicated at the American Asylum for the Deaf in Hartford.


The statue of Thomas H. Gallaudet and Alice Cogswell, sculpted by Daniel Chester French, was unveiled at Gallaudet College.  French also sculpted the Lincoln Memorial statue.


The American School for the Deaf celebrated its 75th Anniversary.  The Chairperson of the celebration was William K. Chase.


    • The American Asylum became incorporated as The American School, at Hartford, for the Deaf which is still the school’s official name but is more commonly known as the American School for the Deaf or ASD.
    • The name of the college section of the National Deaf-Mute College was changed to Gallaudet College in honor of Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, and through an act of Congress in 1954, the entire institution became known as Gallaudet College (now University).



The American School for the Deaf celebrated its 100th Anniversary.  John E. Crane (1872) was the chairperson of the anniversary celebration.


The American School for the Deaf sold its property on Asylum Hill to The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc. and moved to West Hartford, its current location in 1921.


The new school building in West Hartford cost $588,267 to build.  It was called the Main Building from 1921 to 1973 when it became the Gallaudet Building.


The replica of Thomas H. Gallaudet and Alice Cogswell statue was unveiled at the American School for the Deaf at the Second Biennial Reunion of the ASD Alumni Association.  It was a gift from the National Association of the Deaf.


The first annual Homecoming football game was played at ASD on October 25th.  ASD won 39 – 0 against New York School for the Deaf (Fanwood).


The Founders Memorial sculpted by Francis Laughlin Wadsworth commemorating the founders of the American School for the Deaf was unveiled in Hartford on Gallaudet Square, a triangular part at the crest of Asylum Hill on April 18.  It was a gift from the New England Gallaudet Association of the Deaf.


The Captioned Films for the Deaf, Inc. was established by ASD Headmaster, Dr. Edmund Boatner.  In 1959, Congress expanded the Captioned Films for the Deaf to become a free loan service administered by the U.S. Department of Education.


Muriel Alvord Ward was the first woman to be elected to the ASD’s Board of Directors.  Her husband’s (Ferrari Ward) friendship with Dr. Edmund Boatner, then Headmaster of ASD led to their active interest in the school.


As executor of Muriel Alvord Ward’s will, an agreement was entered to “convey” the island property of Isola Bella, in the Twin Lakes part of Salisbury, CT, to the American School for the Deaf.


Camp Isola Bella became the site of the American School for the Deaf summer camp.  It celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2014.


PL 94-142 was signed into law by President Gerald Ford.  It guarantees every disabled child the right to a free and appropriate public education.


A 20-cent USPO stamp honoring Thomas H. Gallaudet was issued in West Hartford.  The First Day of Issue ceremony was held at ASD.


The ASD Athletic Hall of Fame was established by Steven Borsotti ‘77, Albert Darby ‘55, David Halberg ‘48 and David Pires ‘77 to recognize outstanding athletic achievements by former students.


The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush. The ADA protects the rights of the disabled to education, employment, accessible buildings, and other reasonable accommodations.


ASD celebrated its 175th AnniversaryKathy Darby ‘63 and Barbara Cassin ‘75 were the chairpersons of the anniversary celebration.


New headstones for Laurent Clerc and his wife, Elizabeth, were unveiled at Spring Grove Cemetery in Hartford.  In 1992, Alan Barwiolek started a nationwide campaign to restore and ultimately secure new headstones for the Clerc family’s final resting place.


The Pre-College National Mission Programs at Gallaudet University, was renamed the Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center in honor of Laurent Clerc.  It is a federally funded center that provides information, training and technical assistance for families of and professionals working with deaf or hard of hearing children,


ASD selected its first Deaf Executive Director, Dr. Harvey Corson, who previously held positions at Kentucky School for the Deaf, Louisiana School for the Deaf and Gallaudet University.


The ASD Excellence Hall of Fame was established by Gil Eastman ‘52.  In 2014, Bob Furman ‘65 and Louis Rivas E-‘74 changed the name to Achievement Hall of Fame to honor former students for their achievements in the areas of the arts, community service, education and sports.


The fifth ASD building, named the Gallaudet-Clerc Education Center, was constructed for $20,000,000 and replaced the aging Gallaudet Building.


The iconic cupola was removed from the Gallaudet Building and temporarily stored in a location next to the former Executive Director’s residence which is now the ASD Museum.  The Gallaudet Building was finally demolished, bringing an end to a long-standing historical building.


    • The American School for the Deaf unveiled its new and current logo which can be seen on all official documents.
    • The American School for the Deaf was declared an official site on the Connecticut Freedom Trail and awarded a plaque in a dedication ceremony because of Thomas H. Gallaudet and Laurent Clerc’s willingness to facilitate communication with the jailed Mendes African captives from the Spanish ship, the La Amistad.


The American School for the Deaf celebrated its 200th Anniversary.  The Chairpersons of the ASD Alumni 200th celebration were the late Dennis Palka ‘71, Richard Golebiewski ‘66 and Jonathan Cybulski ‘09Barbara Cassin ‘75 was the Bicentennial Celebration chairperson for the yearlong programs celebrating the school’s 200th.

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