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Laurent Clerc - A Stan Klos Biography -- stanKlos.com

Laurent Clerc
Edited by: Ray Foster

CLERC, Laurent, (Birth name: Louis Laurent Marie Clerc) educator, born in La Balme, near Lyon, France, 26 December, 1785; died in Hartford, Connecticut, 18 July, 1869. He was a son of the mayor of the commune where he was born, and, when about a year old, fell into the fireplace and sustained a blow to the head and a permanent facial scar. It is believed this fall was the cause of his deafness and the loss of his sense of smell, but Clerc believes he may have been born with those conditions. However, the scar he received in the accident formed the basis for his name sign; the index and middle fingers stroked on the right cheek. He was taken at the age of twelve to the National Institution for the Deaf, the world's first public school for the deaf, in Paris under the direction of the Abbe Sicard who had succeeded it's founder, the Abbe de l'Epee. Clerc attained rapid proficiency, in 1805 was appointed tutor, and in 1806 a teacher. While on a visit to England in 1815, he made the acquaintance of the Rev. Dr. Gallaudet, who later came to Paris to study the French methods of deaf education and who persuaded him to come to this country to lay the foundation of deaf-mute instruction. They arrived in New York in August, 1816, and opened the asylum at Hartford, 15 April, 1817. He devoted his life thenceforth to the interests of this institution, which was very successful, until in 1858, overcome by the infirmities of age, he retired with a pension. He married at the age of thirty-four Miss Eliza Boardman, a deaf-mute, who bore him several children, all of them possessed of speech and hearing. The oldest son became an Episcopal clergyman in St. Louis.

Clerc was the first deaf teacher of the deaf in America and among the first in the world. A prolific writer, Clerc has been called "the Apostle of the Deaf in America." As co-founder of the first school for the deaf he was the first great proponent of sign language instruction over oral instruction in this country, an advocate for fundamental rights for deaf people, such as the right to marry, and the inspiration for the spread of deaf education throughout the United States. Clerc's knowledge of deaf people's natural inclination to use sign language formed the basis of his view of deafness as a minority culture not unlike language-minority groups that exist in the midst of majority cultures throughout the world. He held this minority culture view of deaf people, deafness and sign language more than a hundred years before the first comprehensive studies of the sign language of the deaf revealed it to be a natural language equivalent to English and all other spoken languages.

NOTE: The Abbe Sicard was the director of the school, however he was in hiding to avoid exile at the time Clerc entered the school. Clerc was at the school for nearly a year before Sicard emerged from hiding.

Laurent Clerc

CLERC, Laurent, educator, born in La Balme, near Lyons, France, 26 December, 1785; died in Hartford, Connecticut, 18 July, 1869. He was a son of the mayor of the commune where he was born, and, when about a year old, fell into the fire, was badly burned, and lost the sense of smell and hearing. He was taken at the age of twelve to the Abb5 Sicard, in Paris, successor of the Abbe de l'Epee, and under his skilful instructions attained rapid proficiency, in 1805 was appointed tutor, and in 1806 a teacher. While on a visit to England in 1815, he made the acquaintance of the Rev. Dr. Gallaudet, who persuaded him to come to this country to lay the foundation of deaf-mute instruction. They arrived in New York in August, 1816, and opened the asylum at Hartford, 15 April, 1817. He devoted his life thenceforth to the interests of this institution, which was very successful, until in 1858, overcome by the infirmities of age, he retired with a pension. He married at the age of thirty-four Miss Boardman, a deaf-mute, who bore him several children, all of them possessed of speech and hearing. The oldest son became an Episcopal clergyman in St. Louis.

Edited Appletons Encyclopedia, Copyright © 2001 StanKlos.comTM

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