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Laurent Clerc

Laurent Clerc
Teacher, co-founder of the first permanent school for the deaf in North America.
Born Louis Laurent Marie Clerc
(1785-12-26)December 26, 1785
La Balme, France
Died July 18, 1869(1869-07-18) (aged 83)
Hartford, Connecticut, United States
Spouse(s) Eliza Crocker Boardman

Louis Laurent Marie Clerc (26 December 1785 – 18 July 1869) was a French teacher called "The Apostle of the Deaf in America" by generations of American deaf people. He was taught by Abbe Sicard, at the famous school for the Deaf in Paris, Institution Nationale des Sourds-Muets. With Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, he co-founded the first school for the deaf in North America, the Hartford Asylum for the Education and Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb on April 15, 1817 in the old Bennet's City Hotel, Hartford, Connecticut. The school was subsequently renamed the American School for the Deaf and in 1821 moved to its present site. The school remains the oldest existing school for the deaf in North America.


  • Biography 1
  • See also 2
  • References 3
  • External links 4
  • Writings by or about Laurent Clerc 5


Born December 26, 1785 in La Balme-les-Grottes, Isère, a village on the northeastern edge of Lyon to Joseph-François Clerc and Marie-Élisabeth Candy in the small village of La Balme where his father was the mayor, Laurent Clerc's home was a typical bourgeois household. When he was a year old, Clerc, while momentarily unattended, fell from a chair into the hearth, suffering a blow to the head and sustaining a permanent scar on the right side of his face below his ear. Clerc's family believed his deafness and inability to smell were caused by this accident, but Clerc later wrote that he was not certain and that he may have been born deaf and without the ability to smell or taste. The facial scar was later the basis for his name sign, the "U" hand shape stroked twice downward along the right cheek. Clerc's name sign would become the best known and most recognizable name sign in American deaf history and Clerc became the most renowned deaf person in American history. Clerc attended the famous school for the Deaf in Paris and was taught by Abbe Sicard. Clerc eventually became a teacher there. In 1815 he traveled to England to give a lecture and there first met Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet. Gallaudet was invited to visit the school in Paris, where, in 1816, he invited Clerc to accompany him to The United States to establish the first permanent school for the Deaf (American School for the Deaf) in Hartford, Connecticut.

During the trip, Clerc learned English from Gallaudet, and Gallaudet learned sign language from Clerc.[1]

According to his 1869 obituary in the New York Times, Clerc came to Hartford in 1816 and became a teacher there in 1817, then served more than 50 years "prominently identified in the cause of deaf-mute instruction." He died at age 83 at his home in Hartford, and "his abilities, zeal, and graces of character made him always respected and loved."[2]

See also


  1. ^ "Pioneers in Special Education -- Laurent Clerc" 17 (1).  
  2. ^ "OBITUARY.; Laurent Clerc, the Instructor of Deaf Mutes.".  

External links

  • Clerc Memorial (bust) at the American School for the Deaf
  • Who was Laurent Clerc? (Clerc National Deaf Education Center web page)
  • Writings by and about Laurent Clerc (Gallaudet University Library web page)
  • Laurent Clerc Info Quest
  • Laurent Clerc Stamp Project at the Wayback Machine (archived November 4, 1999)
  • Laurent Clerc Association
  • Diary of Laurent Clerc's Voyage From France to America in 1816
  • Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center
  • Laurent Clerc Cultural Fund (Gallaudet Univ. Alumni Assoc.)
  • Laurent Clerc Educational Fund, d/b/a Rocky Mountain Deaf School (RMDS)
  • on Laurent Clerc
  • Laurent Clerc's grave site
  • Laurent Clerc obituary in the New York Times, July 19, 1869
  • Children's book: "Laurent Clerc – The Story of His Early Years" by Cathryn Carroll

Writings by or about Laurent Clerc

  • When The Mind Hears: A History of the Deaf, by Harlan Lane. ISBN 0-679-72023-5 (Download Chapter 1, "My New Family":
  • "Autobiography of Laurent Clerc," Chapter III, in: "Tribute to Gallaudet – A Discourse in Commemoration of the Life, Character and Services, of the Rev. Thomas H. Gallaudet, LL.D. – Delivered Before the Citizens of Hartford, Jan. 7th, 1852. With an Appendix, Containing History of Deaf-Mute Instruction and Institutions, and other Documents." By Henry Barnard, 1852. (Online copy of book: see page 102.)
  • Clerc, Laurent. The Diary of Laurent Clerc’s Voyage from France to America in 1816 (West Hartford, CT: American School for the Deaf, 1952). 22 pages. (Download book:
  • Clerc, Laurent. An Address Written by Mr. Clerc and Read By His Request at a Public Examination of the Pupils in the Connecticut Asylum Before the Governour and Both Houses of the Legislature, 28 May 1818. (Download:
  • Clerc, Laurent. Address at the Inauguration of Gallaudet University, 1864. (Download text of address:
  • “Reminiscences of Laurent Clerc,” by L.C.T. Silent World, July 1871, pages 5–6. (Download article:
  • Clerc, Laurent. “Visits to Some of the Schools for the Deaf and Dumb in France and England,” American Annals of the Deaf, Volume 1, Number 1, October 1847, pages 62–66. (Download article:
  • Clerc, Laurent. “Visits to Some of the Schools for the Deaf and Dumb in France and England,” American Annals of the Deaf, Volume 1, Number 2, January 1848, pages 113–120. (Download article:
  • Clerc, Laurent. “Visits to Some of the Schools for the Deaf and Dumb in France and England,” American Annals of the Deaf, Volume 1, Number 3, April 1848, pages 170–176. (Download article:
  • Denison, James. “The Memory of Laurent Clerc: Dedication Address for Clerc Memorial,” American Annals of the Deaf, Volume 19, Number 4, October 1874, pages 238–244. (Download article:
  • Gallaudet, Edward Miner. "Life of Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet – Founder of Deaf-Mute Instruction in America" by Edward Miner Gallaudet, 1888. For information about Laurent Clerc, see pp. 92 and following. (Download book:
  • Irving, Washington (editor). "The Deaf and Dumb" in: Analectic magazine. May 1820 issue. Philadelphia, Pa.: Moses Thomas, pp. 419–431. Link to Google books.
  • Massieu, Jean; Laurent Clerc; and Roch Ambroise Cucurron Sicard. 1815. A collection of the most remarkable definitions and answers of Massieu and Clerc, deaf and dumb, to the various questions put to them, at the public lectures of the Abbé Sicard, in London. London: Printed for Massieu and Clerc, by Cox and Baylis, Great Queen Street, Lincoln's-Inn-Fields
  • Porter, Samuel. “Retirement of Mr. Clerc,” American Annals of the Deaf, Volume 10, Number 3, July 1858, pages, 181–183. (Download article:
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