Perhaps one of the most notable and widely known members in Deaf society is Laurent Clerc, who was a teacher for the deaf. Born on December 26, 1785 in La Balme-les-Grottes, in southeastern France to hearing parents, it is unknown for sure whether Clerc was born deaf or was deafened later on in life. It is believed that Clerc became deaf at the age of one when he had fallen from his high chair into a fire, badly burning his cheek. He developed a fever from the burn, and was later found out to have lost his sense of smell and hearing. As far as it is known, Clerc was non-speaking and relied on pen and paper to those who could not communicate using sign language.
For the first eleven years of his life, Clerc was not sent to school. At the age of twelve, he was sent to study at the Institution for the Deaf and Dumb in Paris, France. Until that time, Clerc had received no formal type of education, nor did he have a form of communication. It was at the Institute that he meant his mentor, fellow deaf person Jean Massieu. The two went on to become lifelong friends. At the school, Clerc excelled in his studies. In 1806, he was appointed to teach for the school and was given command of one of the highest classes.
Clerc, his mentor Massieu, and the director of the school, Abbe Sicard, traveled to England in 1815 to give lectures and demonstrations on their teaching methods for the deaf. It was there that they were introduced to Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, who had journeyed from Hartford, Connecticut in the United States. Gallaudet was invited to study their teaching methods at the school in France, and spent three months there learning how to converse in sign language by Clerc. He persuaded Clerc to accompany him back to the United States in order to teach his methods to the deaf of the United States. Clerc agreed to come with Gallaudet in order to help advance the education of deaf people in the United States.
It is important to know that Clerc came to the United...
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