Edward Miner Gallaudet

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Edward Miner Gallaudet
Edward Miner Gallaudet - Brady-Handy.jpg
Edward Miner Gallaudet, c. 1893
Born (1837-02-05)February 5, 1837
Died September 26, 1917(1917-09-26) (aged 80)

Edward Miner Gallaudet (February 5, 1837 – September 26, 1917), son of Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet and Sophia Fowler Gallaudet, was a famous early educator of the deaf in Washington, DC. As a youth, he enjoyed working with tools and also built an "electrical machine." He kept birds, fowl, and rabbits, spending most of his time in the city, but also occasionally venturing into the country. He had a fond memory of climbing a hill with his father, and another fond memory of his father introducing the subject of geometry to him. His father died when he was 14, just after he graduated from Hartford High School in Hartford, Connecticut. He then went to work at a bank for three years. He didn't like the "narrowing effect" of the mental monotony of the work, and he quit to go to work as a teacher at the school his father founded. He worked there two years, from 1855 to 1857. While he was teaching, he continued his education at Trinity College in Hartford, completing his studies for a bachelor of science degree two years later.[1]

In 1857, Amos Kendall donated 2 acres (0.81 ha) of land for the establishment of a school for the deaf and blind in Washington, D.C., and asked Gallaudet to come to Washington to help lead this school. Edward Miner quickly agreed and became the first principal of the Columbia Institution for the Deaf and Dumb and the Blind.

In 1864, Gallaudet sought college status for the Columbia Institution and got it when President Abraham Lincoln signed a bill into law which authorized the Columbia Institution to award college degrees—a law which was not strictly necessary, but which Gallaudet desired.[citation needed] This first college of the deaf eventually became Gallaudet University.

Edward Miner Gallaudet was the president of Gallaudet College/Columbia for a remarkable 46 years (1864–1910), was the head administrator for 53 years (1857–1910), and was the President of the Board of Directors for 47 years (1864–1911).[2] He was a staunch advocate of sign language. He recognized the value of speech training, but also recognized that speech training was not for everyone.

Gallaudet was awarded honorary degrees by Trinity College in 1859 (M.A.) and 1869 (LL.D.), the Columbian University (later George Washington University) also in 1869 (Ph.D.), and Yale University in 1895 (LL.D.).

After retiring from Gallaudet College, Gallaudet returned to Hartford.

A statue commemorating Gallaudet's life and works resides on the campus of Gallaudet University, which was sculpted by Pietro Lazzari.[3]

He is buried in Cedar Hill Cemetery in Hartford.

Edson Fessenden Gallaudet, who was Edward Miner Gallaudet's fifth child (and second child with his second wife Susan) was an early pioneer in the field of aviation, being the first to experiment with wing warping, and the founder of the first aircraft factory in America.

Biographical Article in the National Cyclopedia of American Biography

GALLAUDET, Edward Miner, educator, was born at Hartford, Conn., Feb. 5, 1837, youngest son of Rev. Thomas Hopkins and Sophia (Fowler) Gallaudet. After attending the high school of his native city for three years, he became, at the age of fourteen and a half, a clerk in the Phoenix Bank in the same place. He was several times promoted, and received flattering offers from other banks, but in 1854 gave uр business and entered Trinity College. In two years' time he completed a course of study which entitled him to the degree of B.S. In this time he covered ground ordinarily requiring four years of study, and often had recitations with the four college classes at the same time, in December, 1855, he began teaching three hours a day in the School for Deaf-Mutes, at Hartford, founded by his father, and on his graduation at college, in 1856, he assumed full duties as an instructor in that institution. In May, 1857, Mr. Gallaudet was invited to Washington, D. C., by Hon. Amos Kendall, to organize a new school for deaf-mutes, chartered by congress, in February of that year. Though not of legal age he at once took charge of this important institution, with the assurance from the board of directors, of which Mr. Kendall was president, that they looked with favor on his scheme, then definitely proposed, to develop the new school into a college. In 1864 congress gave the Columbia Institution collegiate powers, and Mr. Gallaudet, at the age of twenty-seven, was made president of the college he had founded. Liberal appropriations from congress have enabled the college to carry out the plans of its president for the higher education of the deaf, and after thirty-five years of most successful work it is still the only college for the deaf in the world. Beautiful grounds and buildings have been provided by congress, and an ample corps of professors carries forward the education of young deaf-mutes of both sexes to the point of graduation in the liberal arts. Pres. Gallaudet, besides conducting the affairs of the institution in all its departments, planning and superintending the erection of its buildings, has found time for considerable literary work, and has visited Europe four times in the interest of his profession. He has been a contributor to the "American Annals of the Deaf," the "New Englander," the "Penn Monthly," "Harper's Monthly," "International Review," and other publications. In 1879 he published a "Manual of International Law," now used as a text-book in many colleges. In 1887 he published a "Life of Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet (his father). Founder of Deaf-Mute Education in America." His first visit to Europe was in 1867, after which he published a report on schools for the deaf in Europe, which exerted an important influence in promoting the oral teaching of the deaf in this country. His second official Visit to Europe was made in 1880, when he went as a delegate to an international convention of instructors of the deaf at Milan. He took an active part in the discussions of the convention, and commented on its proceedings in the London "Times" and several American journals. In 1886 Dr. Gallaudet was invited by the British government to visit London for the purpose of giving testimony before the royal commission on the blind, deaf and dumb, etc. He appeared before the commission in November, and it is understood that his account of methods approved in America had an important influence in shaping the policy of the commission, whose recommendations have been favorably considered by parliament. Dr. Gallaudet has been for thirty years chairman of the executive committee of the convention of American institutes of the deaf; was one of the founders and has been president of the Cosmos Club; was Garfield's successor as president of the Literary Society of Washington; is an active member of the American Social Science Association, and has been chairman of the department of education: is a member of the Philosophical and Anthropological societies of Washington, and of the American Historical Society and the Huguenot Society, and is president of the District of Columbia Society of the Sons of the American Revolution. The degree of Ph.D. was conferred upon him by Columbian University [George Washington University], in 1869, and that of LL.D. by Trinity College, Hartford, the same year, and by Yale University, in 1895. Dr. Gallaudet was married, in Hartford, Conn., July 20, 1858, to Jane M. Fessenden, daughter of Edson and Lydia W. Fessenden. Mrs. Gallaudet died in 1866. He was married again, Dec. 22, 1868, to Susan, daughter of Joseph A. and Elizabeth (Skinner) Denison. He has three sons and three daughters.

(National Cyclopedia of American Biography, Volume 9, New York: James T. White & Company, 1899, pp. 140–141.)


"The same arguments which go to show that knowledge is power, that the condition of a people is improved in proportion as the masses are educated, have their application with equal weight to the deaf..."—Edward Miner Gallaudet, 1864.[4]

"Deafness, though it be total and congenital, imposes no limits on the intellectual development of its subjects, save in the single direction of the appreciation of acoustic phenomena."—Edward Miner Gallaudet, 1869.

"As eternity is longer than time, as mind is stronger than matter, as thought is swifter than the wind, as genius is more potent than gold, so will the results of well-directed labors toward the development of man's higher faculties ever outweigh a thousand fold any estimate in the currency of commerce, which man can put upon such efforts."—Edward Miner Gallaudet, 1870.[5]

See also


  1. Boatner, Maxine Tull. 1959. Voice of the Deaf--A Biography of Edward Miner Gallaudet. Washington: Public Affairs Press, p. 174.
  2. http://saveourdeafschools.org/columbia_institution_for_the_deaf_annual_report_1910.pdf
  3. Gannon, Jack. 1981. Deaf Heritage–A Narrative History of Deaf America, Silver Spring, MD: National Association of the Deaf, pp. 332-333 (PDF)(PDF)
  4. http://saveourdeafschools.org/edward_miner_gallaudet_inaugural_address.pdf
  5. http://saveourdeafschools.org/columbia_institution_for_the_deaf_annual_report_1870.pdf
  • Gallaudet, Edward Miner (1983) History of the College for the Deaf, 1857-1907, Washington, DC: Gallaudet College Press. (LINK to Google books.)

External links

Academic offices
Preceded by
Position created
President of Gallaudet University
June 22, 1864–June 22, 1910
Succeeded by
Percival Hall