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Dr. Alexander Graham Bell
His pile of honorary doctorates included one from Gallaudet University back in 1880 (when it was The National Deaf Mute College). It related mostly to his work as a teacher of the deaf.
He was only 26 or so, when he got the telephone idea. He may not have been first, but first to patent it. It took two more years to prepare it for production, another year for Thomas Edison's carbon microphone to vastly impove it.
Bell was a teacher of the deaf, who studied technical subjects on his own. As an inventor he was prolific.
Beside the voice telephone, Bell invented an optical telephone, the iron lung, the audiometer, the spectrograph, the hearing aid, the metal detector, the surgical audio probe, the selenium battery, and space frame architecture. He was an aviation pioneer. He was incidental in developing the hydrofoil speedboat. He originated the idea of treating cancers with radium. Also, he was an accomplished pianist and cattle breeder.
There's a remarkable illustrated article on Bell in the 100th Anniversary issue (September, 1988) of National Geographic.
An "Evil....Un-American Deaf Race"
Bell was a high official in the American Eugenics movement. Eugenics is a phony, criminal, and discredited "science" to improve a society or race by selecting who may not be born.
Those liable to genetically spread physical and social "defects" to their children were "dysgenic".
This included alcoholics, tramps, prostitutes, criminals, street children, etc., and those with grave birth defects, including any children they produced, sometimes even normal children.
Bell's focus was on the congenitally and prelingaly Deaf. He proposed in
1883 that they live only within hearing society, away from most other Deaf persons. This would lessen deaf-to-deaf marriages and the spread of genetic, social, and cultural deafness. Also' to motivate deaf persons to acquire
speech and assimilate into hearing society.
They should not be taught by deaf teachers, who would become role models.
Nor should they go to school together.
All that would prevent their expansion into an "evil" thing, an "un-American deaf race with a foreign language", and "a great calamity to the world".
He was outraged by the talk at the time of a Deaf state of the union.
He said (in the memoir down below) that "deaf mutes think in the gesture language, and English to them is apt to remain a foreign tongue. ..........they often write in broken English, as a foreigner
[Only a] few of the congenitally deaf are able to ...... read books..... They are thus ........ cut off from our literature......
The political speeches of the day, the leading editorials, etc., are
often beyond their knowledge. This [illiteracy, is] another element
forces them into each other's society".
Bell was a teacher of the deaf, as was his father and grandfather. They were elocutionists, teaching speech as well to their students. He described ASL
as "an artificial and conventional language derived from pantomime." He believed (as many still do today) that it nullified their need to learn to speak
and lipread, or fully learn the English language.
He proposed mainstreaming of deaf pupils into hearing schools. He
believed deaf boarding schools (common at the time) removed their
students entirely from hearing society, at great disadvantage to their later "business and social relations" in the hearing world.
"[Due to this isolation in boarding schools and in deaf society]
many [hearing] persons have the idea that [deaf adults] are
dangerous, morose, ill-tempered, etc. [Deaf] people are sometimes looked upon as a sort of monstrosity, to be stared at and avoided. [Hearing people] do not understand the mental condition
of a person who cannot speak and thinks in gestures".
He delivered a lecture on all this to the National Academy of Sciences in 1883.
It had the frightening and hostile title of
Memoir Upon the Formation of a Deaf
Variety of the Human Race. You can
buy a paperback of that title from Amazon for about $10, or read parts of
it via the link below.
We suggest you skip all his genetic mishmash and start at the conclusion in Chapter VI, P.41.
"I believe that in an English-speaking country like the United States,
the English language, and the English language alone, should be
used as a means of communication and instruction". A.G. Bell, 1913
He was anti-immigration for a similar reason, related to the mass of
low-bred immigrants bringing in their foreign ways and languages, and cloning themselves here at a high rate. He wrote, "The only hope for the American race, lies in the restriction of immigration". (See the eugenic
rticle on deaf persons' immigration at the end of this column).
Bell even dabbled in breeding of cats with white hair and blue eyes, partly
to get some idea of how deaf babies are bred.
A.G. Bell was a major influence at the 1880 International Conference on Education of the Deaf, in Milan, Italy.
It was attended by highly involved delegates from five European
countries and the United States,
ll prominent in deaf education.
It was here that the decision was
made to remove sign language and deaf teachers from deaf education,
and go with the pure oral method.
The link below gives many details of the conference.
Forbidden Signs (by Douglas Baynton, 1998) is a book that explores the period from the middle of the 19th Century through the lens of one striking episode: the campaign led by A.G. Bell and other prominent people, to surpress the use of sign language.
The NY Times Book Review called it "brilliant and detailed". It said that debates over the use of dialects or languages are really the tip of a submerged argument about power, control, nationalism, and who has the right to control modes of communication.
The De'VIA artist Tony McGregor created this work, "A.G. Bell's Nightmare", depicting Bell's obvious horror at the prospect of an expanding "un-America deaf race" with a "foreign language", a thing of "evil", and "a great calamity to the world".
The painting below by the deaf De'VIA artist Mary Thomley portrays the damage done to ASL by the conference. It is metonymic to the work of the deaf Spanish master, Francisco Goya, Third of May 1808 (depicting murders of Spanish civilians by French troops of Napoleon).
Eugenics, if used to "improve" the human race, is seen today as immoral, criminal, and a phony applied science. Its objective is to "purify" the human race by preventing birth to persons who might not physically or mentally conform to a menu of physical standards or traits.
Letterhead of the National Eugenics Record Office. The founder is the wife of the Harriman railroad empire, which funded part of German Eugenics.
As you see, the Chairman of the Board of Scientific Directors is
Alexander G. Bell. His fame from the telephone, and his knowledge of
genetics through his cattle-breeding activity, got him into that position.
Deaf Mute Should
Eugenics went so far as to propose sterilization of congenitally Deaf people, so they wouldn't produce more Deaf people, who it was believed would become wards of the state.
An article typical for the time, was published in 1911 by a prominent
London surgeon. After 14 pages of hygienic, genetic, and financial
mishmash to support his conclusion, he ends with what you xpected ten
pages back: "Every congenital deaf mute should be sterilized" . As a
surgeon, he probably had his incisions, cauteries, clamps, and sutures
all figured out for the most economic methods for sterilization of both sexes.
We often wonder about these medical people. If he had a congenital deaf daughter, would he allow her to be sterilized?
He was an FRCS (Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons), a very high status,
and also had some involvement in deaf education (most likely as a figurehead
or a decoration for some deaf school's letterhead). FRCS and all, he was medical ignoramus and belongs with the others on our Page 1, right column, bottom.
If you've nothing better to do, you can read all his 14 pages here:
Eugenics Propaganda ---around 1910.
(They say the father, born with a physical imperfection, will pass birth defects to his children, and thus should have been sterilized before marriage).
Forced Serilization in America (The American Shame)
From 1933 to 1977 (that's 44 years) 60,000 Americans were sterilized, most involuntarily. Most (85%) were females (what would you expect?) ---poor, and uneducated.
40% were from various minorities--- Roma, Blacks, American Indians, Mexicans......... Many were prisoners and the disabled in institutions..
Refusal of sterilization was a criminal offense.
Shockingly, some were as young as 10, chosen because of promiscuity, not getting along with schoolmates, juvenile delinquency, or such, or simply were offspring of someone later sterilized (they were thought to carry the same genetic pattern as the sterilized parent).
Order of Sterilization or Asexualization
The photo above shows a typical official request for sterilization. It is by
Dr. G.T. Parrott, Superintendent of an institution in North Carolina, to the state's Eugenic Board in 1948, for the sterilization of Willis Lynch. (Note
the disallowal of physical castration. Thatl had not always been the case).
Note that sterilization continued here (yes, HERE!) for
32 years after we knew the Eugenic basis of 360,000 sterilizations of Germans by the Nazis (including
17,000 Deaf people).
More American Shame
The Nazis got much of their sterilization and euthanasia ideas from America, emulating the Eugenic system of California.
America's first law making forced sterilization legal, was enacted in Indiana
in 1907 ---26 years before a similar law was enacted in Nazi Germany.
The American who created the model law for forced sterilization, to be
adapted by many states here, was given an honorary doctorate by the
Nazis. Going even further, getting rid of dysgenic people via starvation, injection, gas, poison, exposure, etc, was first suggested in American Eugenic literature.
Hitler referred to an American Eugenics publication as "my bible". He praised the California Eugenics system in his Mein Kampf. In the 1930's, before Hitler, the Germans received American guidance in setting up their own Eugenic systems, including money ---almost $5 million (in today's money) from the Rockefeller Foundation. Also, grants from the Carnegie Institution, the Harriman railroad fortune, and support from scientists at prominent American universities. You can read about that here:
The Eugenics movement was strongly developed early in the 20th Century. Congenital deafness was still a universal calamity back then. Even some Deaf people agreed that having a Deaf child was to be avoided. At one point, even the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) seemed to agree.
A most interersting article on Eugenics and the NAD is in the Spring, 2016
issue of the NAD magazine. You can read it here in PDF:
Half of all forced sterilizations in the U.S. occurred in California (the epicenter of Eugenics), the rest in 30 other states ----all legal--- beginning with Indiana. Federal
law put an end to it in 1979, but it became legal again (with heavy restriction) in 1994. Some prisoners were forcibly sterilized as late as 2010. (Guess where? In California, of course, the state praised by Hitler. That's a run of 77 years for this thing in that state!).
Watch the captioned movie at this site:
Read When Poverty Was White (New York Times, 3/25/2012):
A common goal of the USA eugenics movement, was to enact laws
proscribing marriage to certain people unless they agreed to sterilization.
Or to sterilize, marriage or no marriage, voluntarily or not. Among these undesirables, the so-called physically, mentally, and socially unfit
(gleaned from various Eugenic literature), were these "dysgenics" (to be
sure, an incomplete list). As you can see, many actually had nothing to do with genetics.
"mental, moral, and physical weaklings"; the "feebleminded, criminalistic, epileptic, inebriate, blind, deaf-mute, and deformed"; "those given to pauperism, criminality, prostitution, degenerecy, intemperance, and addiction"; "excessive self-polluters,
libertines, homosexuals and other neurasthenics"; "persons
with venereal diseases, breeder's disease, TB, epilepsy, apoplexy,
goiter, cancer, anemia, and kyphosis"; "undesirables including orphaned street children, never-do-wells, tramps, beggars, the homeless, and paupers". Also, the basket term of "propagated defectives" which would include the congenitally Deaf.
There's an interesting archive at http://www.eugenicsarchive.org/eugenics/
If you type this
heading into your browser, you'll
get lots to read.
Or start here:
Eugenics at Ellis Island
Federal Immigration Law began in the 1880s with entrance denied "to any
convict, lunatic, idiot, or any person unable to take care of himself or herself without becoming a public charge". In Eugenic thinking, many
(if not most) Deaf people fell into that wastebasket statement.
Up to 1954 when Ellis Island was closed, twelve million people passed through. A considerable number had been refused admission, mostly for medical reasons.
Many people wore their best clothes to enhance their presentability. (The photo above was probably posed with selected people, especially children, to make a point of this). Admission was of extreme importance. To most, denial was tragic and traumatic, for some to the point of suicide.
The first "medical” examinations were by shipping agents selling tickets for the trip to America. If a buyer looked deportable (in the ticket seller's opinion), the purchase might be refused. The shipper had to finance a deportee's return, and a portion of this expense was passed to the ticket agency. Some shippers also had their own "medical" examinations.
The Quick-&-Dirty Phony "Medical" Exams
At Ellis Island, the "medical examinations"
were shameful ------ taking only several
minutes, and were intended to catch up to 60 different
physical defects. Eugenics prevailed: People with certain physical defects were "dysgenic".
It was believed they would be unemployable paupers, wards of the state, parasites, useless mouths to feed. And worse-- they would clone themselves here.
They were singled out by a chalk-marking
If a person didn’t look “right” ---had a limp, a
bent back, an odd-shaped head, etc., or had a vision or hearing defect, or one of a multitude
of other things---- s/he got a big “P” chalked on
the shoulder or back of the coat. It stood for
“physical defect”. There were other symbols,
as “FT” for flat feet, "S" for suspected senility
and "X" for a possible mental problem ---or
much worse, "X" within a circle. Just having a deep, vacant facial expression could earn an
"X". Being an unusually short male adult,
might earn a "P". Likewise having shuffling
feet or wheezing breathing.
At the left is an actual sign posted for use by examiners. ("B" was for back problems.)
If a mother was carrying a child of walking age,
the examiner would demand she put the child on the floor to walk, to be sure it was not crippled. If it was, the child would be deported. The parent (and perhaps the whole family) would leave.
Some marked people keen to what was going on, sneaked through by turning their chalked coats inside out.. Getting marked usually meant deportation.
An appeal with a hearing was allowed, but eugenics still prevailed.
A detailed description of these "medical" examinations can be found through
the link below.
Deaf and mute arrivals probably had been pre-warned not to sign openly.
The standard test for deafness was for the doctor to verbally ask each
person their name. Even if the person knew no English, the doctor could
tell by the facial expression or other reaction that the person was deaf.
It worked best with deaf children.
After the physicals, there was a quick battery of legal and other questions
in the applicant's language. Any deaf person who managed to get that far was easily identified.
A very sad story, reprinted from edHelper.com:
One Russian family had a four-year-old girl named Natasha. She was deaf
and mute and was marked with an "X." The family had to either send the
to Russia to live with relatives, or they all had to go back. They had only a
moment to decide. They sent Natasha back with her older sister. A year later, the sister returned to America. Natasha stayed in Russia. The family never
saw Natasha again.
In the link below, there’s
adisturbing story of a
woman deported with her young son who was
hard-of-hearing, but marked up as a "deaf mute".
A judgement in her failed appeal reflected eugenic thought of the time: that her son when grown, would not be able
to find employment because of his deafness a
nd thus become a pauper, a ward of the state.
In the opinion of many, the way Ellis Island's admission system
was run, was an enduring shame upon the United States. You would
most likely have that impression after reading this article:
See also the article at bottom of this page.
Here is an interesting story of a young Deaf girl (Nellie Myers, nee Ratner) who made it through Ellis Island to the United States from Austria in 1940.
In tribute to Mabel Hubbard Bell.................
The Deaf Woman Buried in Bell's Shadow
The deaf Mabel Gardiner Hubbard, was Alexander Graham Bell's favorite student and confidant. At age 19, (and him at 27), she became his wife.
If she was just anybody, that would be the end of the story. She was so overshadowed by her famous husband, that she remains in popular
knowledge, even to today, only as his wife, period.
Mabel was the daughter of a prominent and
wealthy lawyer. She lost all her hearing (and
almost her life) at age 5. That was back in
strong Eugenic times, when deafness in a child
was a calamity ----more a calamity in a wealthy family like hers, that felt entitled to the best of everything.
Alas, no one back then could mitigate their
sadness and tell them, that their little deaf girl would grow up
to marry one of the most famous and admired men in American history
----that she'd bear him four children and be indispensable to him in his
work------that she would become somewhat famous herself with at least five books written principally on her, and several more with substantial parts
on her alone ........ and that she would be recognized as an aviation
pioneer (she studied aeronautics during that experience).
[Note: Of their four children, both of their sons died in infancy. It was
not uncommon back then for children to die before their parents.]
Her teacher-inventor husband was neither wealthy nor a businessman.
It was the money of her wealthy lawyer father, others, and personal funds
of Mabel herself ---and their guidance, including Mabel’s----that made the commercial production of his telephone possible.
Bell’s inventive brain later wandered away from the telephone at age 33 to
a host of other things for the next 40 years (lightbeam phone, iron lung,
medical radium, genetic experiments with sheep, hydrofoil speedboats,
etc.). A big thing for him was aviation, at the time of the Wright brothers.
Mabel didn’t just watch.
On her own, she studied themes related to what
would become “aeronautics”.
She convinced Bell to get a
few engineers into
a project group to better
accomplish his aviation ideas.
She alone managed the group and handled the salaries and other finances.
They eventually produced the famous “Silver Dart”, which flew 22 miles.
You must have heard of the giant Curtis-Wright Corporation. The "Wright" is from the Wright Brothers. The "Curtis" is from the famous aviation ioneer Glenn Curtis. Mabel is the one who hired him for her group, was his boss, paid his salary, and worked with him.
Mabel started the first Montessori school in Canada, then another in the USA. There’s much to read about
A.G. Bell’s remarkable deaf wife. Start here:
ince Adam and Eve……..
………..D/deaf people were well aware of this thing. It had a name,
briefly -----about 30 years ago, “deafism” unsuccessfully named it. Now it’s “audism”.
It was coined by graduate student Tom Humphies in 1975. The word is
still relatively new -----today, word document programs “correct” audism into autism.
Audism is the notion that having normal hearing makes one superior
----- and often further, that life with deafness is very limited, or even futile and miserable. This notion may generate pitifulness , paternalism, and disdain towards a Deaf person, with confusion, discomfort, and even fear
in the hearing person’s mind.
It generates a stigma, putting most Deaf people into an underclass, with
the contempt an underclass usually gets.
It assumes that with deafness, one cannot function in society as others
can. Here and there, that may be factual (a deaf person can’t be an airline pilot).
But many limitations are imagined (“How come you drive?”), or insulting (“Can you afford the watch you want to see?”), or absurd (“Do you have a family?”). It assumes that deafness must be fixed, by medical or technological means.
An audistic hearing person controlling a situation -----such as a job interviewer, police officer, store clerk, work supervisor ……….. can be
very harmful to a Deaf person involved. For one example, there’s the
Deaf licensed forklift operator reduced to pulling a wagon (on our Page 14).
You’ll find more audism examples on our site (the harm or just the
thinking) ----like the disbelieving locksmith, the confused motorcycle
cop, and the arrogant judge (all on Page 7). The motorcycle escort near
the end of Page 1, is helpfully audistic, but it’s still audism. If you’re
Deaf, you can provide plenty of your own examples.
Audism alienates Deaf people, and may cause some to fear and hate hearing people.
Audism exists within the deaf community itself, harmfully, through
thoughts by members of others being “too Deaf”, or not enough. A fine example is the Deaf President Now event at Gallaudet University.
A known capable administrator was vilified and rejected for
“not being Deaf enough”.
So what can be done about audism?
Making the hearing world aware, is much more difficult that what’s been
done for racism. We all know someone of a different race, and are well
aware of racism. But publicizing an “ism” related a tiny 1/3 of 1% of the U.S. population, will bounce off the brains of hearing people. Most never had any meaningful contact with a Deaf person, nor ever knowingly saw one. It’s like asking everyone to be respectful of Eskimos (yes, plenty still exist). Regardless, audism must be publicized with effort.
We think a Ken Burns documentary of the typical Deaf life, or one of that caliber, would be very helpful. And we believe there’s a lasting solution, though it may take one or two more generations.
It’s natural for you (or anybody) to feel superior (and all that) to someone
who meets your opinion of being a “nobody” ----- a person who has not attained an admirable life situation. Audism thrives because the Deaf
world doesn’t possess enough noteable “somebodys”.
This site had discussed The Myth of Deaf Power (it’s on Page 13). We quoted Sister Souja, a spokesperson against racism. She had the right
idea against racism in just three words: “Brothers, educate yourselves !”. We thought the same for Deaf Power, and we’d think the same for audism.
There’s more of the basics here: http://deafchoice.com/faq/what-is-an-audist/
And a book here: https://www.amazon.com/Audism-Unveiled/dp/1581210477
UP TO NEXT COLUMN. PLEASE
Deaf People Themselves Acquired the Telephone
The late writer Pete McWilliams, wrote of the irony of how, “for almost a century, everyone but the deaf enjoyed the fruits of
Mr. Bell’s labor”, the telephone. Actually, the deaf were in some ways connected to the creation of the telephone, and more so to adapt it to their use.
Bell was researching the "Phonautograph" to help with speech instruction for his deaf students. It was a weird device, which converted speech sounds to images on paper ("weird" because it employed inner ear parts from a human cadaver). Within that effort, he realized that a human voice could deflect a metal diaphragm. From that, the idea of the telephone came to him. He was guided by his knowledge of speech, sound, and hearing --- gained as a teacher of the deaf (as were his father and grandfather). His mother was partially deaf.
He was at the time romancing his favorite deaf student, close friend and confidant (later his wife), the teenaged Mabel Hubbard. It is thought by some that his idea for the telephone was inspired by his desire to use electricity in some manner, for Mabel to hear music.
It took two long years (after the idea won a patent) to develop a telephone suitable for production.
Mabel's father and that of another deaf student, provided the immense economic support, throughout that effort and well afterward.
Mabel, who was from a wealthy family, provided as well from her personal funds. She provided emotional support, and more. She was quite involved. (At one point she convinced Bell to attend an important exhibition to display his work. Without first asking him, she bought the train tickets, packed his bags, and practically shoved him out the door).
Bell’s phone was functional but impractical. One person who could never use it, because he was deaf, made it practical via his carbon microphone. This improvement by the deaf Edison was so perfect, it remained in universal use for 90 years (and is still in use here and there throughout the world).
He chose "Hello" for its effect on human hearing. Before that, hello meant "ooops!" or "oh gosh!" (e.g., "Hello!! I just ripped my pants!"). Eventually, it became the universal person-to-person greeting in English. (We mention this again on P.11, right column).
When most think of Edison, they think of his light bulb. Not many know he was deaf. And almost none know he invented one of the most used words in the English language.
And for almost a hundred years, no other deaf person could use this device.
The Bell Telephone Labs, was indirectly instrumental in getting the phone to the deaf, via their invention of the transistor in the late 1940's. It makes a small, electronic TTY practical. But nobody there then, nor anywhere else, thought of producing one. The digital circuitry for an electronic TTY and the Baudot code needed for it, were well known. With WW2 over, the wall-to-wall carpet of PhD geniuses at Bell Telephone Labs could have produced one ready for production in 1945, between breakfast and lunch.
And why didn't they?
We don't know, but can imagine the prevailing attitude there at that time:
“A telephone for whom? For deaf people? Ha ha, what important matters are they involved in that requires a telephone? We have more worldly and
remunerating things to do around here”.
Well, the phone company did eventually fulfill (in their self-serving opinion) their mandate as a utility to serve all. They provided some basic phone attachments for the deaf. These were tap-tap devices. The taps represented assigned meanings such as yes and no,. The devices were a notch or two above unimaginative junk.
Ten more years passed. We are in the 1960s now.
A video phone had always been of interest interest, particularly to the deaf. The image below, left, is some dreamer's idea of one in the 1920's.There were experimental ones since 1939
(3rd photo, at top).
The first one for possible public use, arrived from AT&T in 1964 (below, right) with much hoopla and hope for its use by the deaf. But it was impractical for the existing phone systems. Actually,
it was not created to assist deaf people, but was mostly for a media splash. Splash or flop, it cost AT&T a half billion dollars.
More and more years passed.
Deaf people themselves (and quite a lot of their time and money) were instrumental in attacking and solving the problem of the telephone. There were many Deaf heroes in this. Their long, tedious, and convoluted effort justifies over 200 pages in the book noted at the end of this article.
First came ponderous teletype machines of different types (2nd photo, at top). Getting them to work for the deaf through existing phone systems was achieved by a Deaf physicist (Robert Weitbrecht, d. 1983, at left), with the support of other Deaf people. Deaf people exclusively, got them into widespread use by deaf people. Accomplishing that was a long and incredibly difficult effort.
AT&T, which owns Bell Labs, unsuccessfully tried to stop the effort, as digital pulses from teletypes were a bit harsh on their switching equipment in the public phone system. Moreover, they didn't want anything touching their system with something they had no control over. Actually, they had the means to assist the effort. That's what they were mandated to do ----provide their service universally. But the thought of deaf people making phone calls, was somehow out of their mental space.
We are in the 1970's now.
Some suitcase-size electronic and electro-mechanical devices appeared to replace the cumbersome teletype machines. One of the first miniaturized electronic TTYs, was the MCM (at right). Bell Telephone Labs' transistor made it possible (with nothing further from them). MCM's creation had plenty of Deaf push and money behind it.
Seeing the MCM selling briskly at quite a high price for a mere telephone (over $1,000 in current dollars), industry finally jumped in, producing many multi-featured electronic TTYs. It was not to right a wrong. It was for the big bucks to be made, and quite a lot of bucks were made. Even mighty IBM got into the game.
AT&T posts a timeline on their site, running from the 1800's to the present, covering major achievements in electronics. The TTY isn't mentioned.
With teletypes and early electronic TTYs in use, a few phone companies patronizingly funded small TTY relay services. (At the beginning, there were only two TTY operators typing for the entire state of New York, and were barely reachable). Deaf people demanded proper TTY relay services; it didn't come with the scenery. Then likewise, video relay services (with some hats raised to the engineers at Sorenson Vision, Inc.).
There’s much to be learned from all this.
Here's the only book with the full story. It's interesting, and for many it will be fascinating. (That's a young Dr. Weitbrecht on cover).
A Phone of Our Own by Harry Lang (Gallaudet University Press, 2000, hardcover, 242 pages. Created in five years of effort by the author.
It's $36.50 from the publisher, under $10 on Amazon (and there's also the library).
BTW, if you want to see Weitbrecht's patent for connecting a TTY to the phone system, it's #3,507,997 and is 17 pages long.
ALEXANDER GRAHAM BELL, the inventor of the telephone, never called his wife or his mother -- they were both deaf.
[ To which we may add ---
Thomas Edison, inventor of then microphone that made the telephone useable, never could call anybody either, because he was deaf. ]
The History of the Telephone...........
.........makes fascinating reading. Best thing on line for that is through the link below.
This is A.G. Bell and his early telephone, a few years after he patented it. His subsequent designs needed Edison's carbon microphone to be practical.
The World's First TTY for the Deaf
William E. Shaw (d. 1949) was a prolific inventor of signaling devices for the deaf. In the 1920's he built a panel of light bulbs, each bulb having a painted-on letter of the alphabet. Two such panels with keyboards, were connected by a cable of (at least) 27 wires. Their distance apart was of course limited because of the cable, but it was the world's first TTY.
He is thought to be the originator of every common flashing and vibrating device used by d/Deaf people today. He was praised by Bell and Edison.
Read about it here (and about the custody battle he was involved in).
Vision vs. Hearing
We are unable to identify the artist. This impressive work shows the data of sound trans-ferred to vision
by sign language interpretaion.
The eyes are the mirrors of your soul. Shakespeare
Blindness separates people from things. Deafness separates people from people.
Helen Keller (d. 1968)
The Escapist website ran a poll: If you had to choose between deafness and blindness, which would choose? Over 300 people responded. 88% chose deafness, only 12% blindness. Most explained why. Read those explanations here:
Considering all five senses, 70% of everything sensed by a hearing person, and 80% of all s/he learns in a lifetime, comes via vision. For a Deaf person, we'd imagine those numbers to be closer to 100%.
The highest level of our brain is the cerebral cortex. An entire one third is exclusively for eyesight.
For hearing, there are 30,000 hairs in each cochlear
(a few shown in the electron microscope photo here). Each is a receptor of sound and has its private nerve pathway to the brain, through the auditory nerve. They work in combination to mix in the brain, yielding an enormous range and variety of sound.
Still, vision is more impressive.
Against hearing's mere 30,000 receptors and pathways, each eye has 130 million receptors (shown at right), sending their impulses through a million shared pathways in the optic nerve.
As with hearing, the receptors work in combination. For color, the eye communicates with the brain via electrical impulses from five million specialized receptors that transmit only for red, green and blue.
For example, on seeing a yellow flower the eye sends pulses, in a distinct combination of red and green, to mix into (to be sensed as) yellow in the brain. If you were color-blind for green, yellow flowers would look like roses. (Don't try this at home with red and green paint in an old coffee can. You'll get brown. But you can hold red and green Christmas tree lights closely together. You'll fool your brain and see a yellow line at the interface).
Millions of colors, shades, and hues are produced by combinations of red, green, and blue.
If you find vision of great interest, acquire National Geographic's The Sense of Sight (November, 1992).
More Vision vs. Hearing
Here's an excerpt from David Lodge's seriocomic novel, Deaf Sentence (Penguin, 2008).
"Deafness is comic as blindness is tragic. ........The blind have pathos. Sighted people regard them with compassion, go out of their way to help them............... The [seeing-eye] dogs, the white canes, the dark glasses, are visible signs of their affliction, calling forth an instant rush of sympathy. We deafies have [nothing] compassion-inducing. Our hearing aids are almost invisible and we have no loveable [guide dogs]. (What would be an equivalent guide dog for the [hard of hearing]? A parrot on your shoulder, squaking into your ear?). Strangers don't realize you're deaf until they've been trying and failing to communicate with you ..... and then it's irritation rather than compassion.
"It's a very unequal contest between the two organs. Eyes are the windows of the soul, they express feelings, They come in subtle, alluring colors and shades, they brim with tears, They shine and gleam and twinkle. Ears, well, they're funny-looking things really, especially when they stick out. ..... no wonder women hang earrings on the lobes .... to distract the eye from the furry hole that leads to your brain. In fact, what other function does the earlobe have?"
We found a 1993 copy of the English language edition of the Japanese publication, Business Tokyo. It printed some predictions 25 years ago, some below with our present comment:
"By 1997-- videophones in everyone's home".
They were referring to landline phones, which everyone had back then (and most homes still have). It's a bad call for landline phones, as the wiring cannot handle video. It's a sure thing by (we'd guess) 2040 on phone systems that will be of a higher technology. Presently, videophones are almost universal in Deaf homes (i.e., the video phones and Video Relay Services).
"By 2003-- implantable artificial ears" .
They were 10 years too early on this one, but not bad. Yes, the whole shebang is being implanted right now with very little visible externally. Look at the "TICI" on our Page 1, (bottom, left) now under development in Australia.
"By 2011-- electronically-equipped eyesight"
They said via "artificial photo receptors connected directly to the optic nerve". 2011 was almost on the nose! At least 50 completely blind people are walking around with cameras in eyeglasses broadcasting to an implant in their retinas, seeing lights and shapes. Read about it here:
Below is an X-ray of the implanted controller package and the electronic retina. At right is a tree as seen by a totally blind person via this device.
By 2014-- implantable eyes, yielding an end to most blindness".
Whoa !! If that means a totally blind person driving a car alone or reading a newspaper, via a totally implanted system ----it's obviously a much, much too short call for 2014. Those Japanese are amazing dreamers.
We believe it doable, but closer to the last quarter of this century, with some useable achievements along the way.
Different experimental projects (for what is collectively called
"the bionic eye") are in process in the USA, Japan, Australia, Israel, and Europe. They are on the cutting edge of bio-medical electronics.
Read about it here and be amazed:
............and here too:
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"The Japanese are engineers and innovators.
Americans are lawyers and consumers".
Jack Anderson, columnist
"The U.S., with 5% of the world's population, is home to 75% of the planet's lawyers". Bruce Rosen, Attorney
"No one thinks twice about someone having up to twenty pairs of shoes.
.......American consumers, who make up only 5% of the world's population, used nearly a third of the earth's resources and produced almost half
of its hazardous waste". Melissa Dix, author
Over 40,000 Deaf people lived in Nazi Germany
17,000 were forcibly sterilized
13,000 others were murdered
If you were born deaf, you would be sterilized.
Likewise your hearing parents, because of you.
If you were deaf and institutionalized, you
would die in the Aktion T4 program.
If you deaf and Jewish , you would
be deported to the Eastern death camps.
The phony "science" of Eugenics is a method to improve society by eliminating people, existing or to be born, who don’t correspond to an image created by others. For the Nazis, it was a physical, economic, and racial image ---to be physically superb, economically productive, Nordic-Germanic, and in agreement with German supremacy.
Many not corresponding were to be marginalized, sterilized, murdered, or forced to emigrate. Sterilization and murder were done by methods refined by German doctors prostituting themselves and their profession, for the criminal government of Adolph Hitler.
Up to 400,000 Germans were sterilized (and many pregnancies were terminated). Force was allowed. Some did not survive the procedure. The victims or their families were charged for the operation. It was generally by tubal ligation and vasectomy. In some cases for men it was by irradiation.
Congenital deafness was one of the first of several conditions mandated for sterilization. About 17,000 were sterilized. Even hearing children of deaf parents were candidates for sterilization, as they were thought to carry the genetic deafness pattern.
When the Nazis took over in the early 1930s, most Germans, including Deaf Germans, were enthusiastic to get involved in the highly promising “new Germany.” Very few Germans had any idea of the nightmare to come.
Many in the Deaf communities tried to be part of the fabric of organizations and activities. It was thought the correct thing to do, since that's what most Germans were doing. Some Deaf organizations wore Nazi uniforms and marched in Nazi parades. Some acted as storm troopers. They had their own Nazi-inspired deaf umbrella organization with it's deaf Nazi leader
-----"REGEDE" or The Reich Union of the Deaf.
Some Deaf Germans and teachers in deaf schools, collaborated in sorting out Deaf students for sterilization, and in rounding up Jewish Deaf students (most who later died in the Eastern death camps).
REGEDE sent at least one Deaf woman to visit Deaf communities. She had chosen voluntary sterilization and her mission was to encourage other Deaf woman to seek sterilization as a patriotic gesture -----that is, to avoid producing any more of what they thought would be useless deaf wards of the state.
Photos of REGEDE's "Deaf Fuhrer", Fritz Albreghs (complete with Nazi uniform, pistol, and Hitler-style mustache) are below. The middle photo shows a political demonstration by Nazi teachers of the deaf. (He and they cooperated in the harassment, sterilization, and murder of D/deaf people).
Here the so-called "Deaf Fuhrer", Fritz Albreghs, graces the cover of an issue of the "German Deaf Newspaper" produced by REGEDE, the Nazi organization of the deaf.
The newspaper, REGEDE, and Herr Albreghs ----all went into the trashcan of history with the Nazis.
He was killed at age 53 in a bombing a few months before the German surrender in 1945.
Actually, deaf people didn’t fit the physical part of the Nazi’s “master race” image. Their sign language was alien, and they congregated only with each other. They were "biologically inferior" and thus could not be good "Aryans" (members of the German "Master Race"). They and their genes were a "threat to the nation and its culture". Their participation in Nazi activities was ended, with a few exceptions. Some served in combat late in the war, when the army was scraping the bottom of the barrel for men. (See Page 18 for German Deaf soldiers in combat, WW2).
Deaf schools were to be closed. It was thought a waste of state money to educate deaf people. In the Nazi mind, they would not amount to anything useful to society or the state.
The Nazi's "Aktion T4 Program" murdered 240,000 disabled
Most Deaf people who died, were murdered in the "T4 program".
In that, 240,000 disabled Germans of all types who were dependent (“non-productive”, “useless mouths to feed”) were murdered in groups by gas, poison, and starvation. A lot of Deaf people fell into those wastebasket terms. Babies and other young people were included.
Some of this was duplicated by the Germans in the captive nations.
Here is a long video from Germany on the subject, in German sign language with English captions. It is informative (and of course unpleasant).
Here are further information sources on the internet.
One book exists to cover this whole matter in depth (and does so admirably): Deaf People in Hitler’s Europe (edited by Donna Ryan and JohnSchuchman), Gallaudet University Press, 2002. Click on the link below.
There are other informative books on the subject; here are three.
Crying Hands by Horst Biesold. (Gallaudet U. Press, 1999) and
Surviving in Silence by Eleanore Dunai (Gallaudet U. Press, 2002)
T4 by Ann LeZotte is a novel by a deaf author, about a deaf girl escaping murder in the notorious T4 program. It is for young people 12 and up.
The cover image of Crying Hands, is by artist David Bloch, a Deaf survivor of the Dachau death camp.
In tribute to Alec Naiman...........................
An unusual Deaf person has left us.
Alec Naiman died recently. He had studied anthropology at NYU. He went into a war zone of the Lebanon Conflict to make an award-winning film. He successfully climbed icy
Mt. Rainier (2.75 miles high) right after 11 died trying the same thing. He sued mighty NYU Hospitals Center for failure to provide sign interpretation (and won), forcing them to acquire an in-house manager for interpreting needs.
He was a motorcyclist and a private pilot (but sadly became a paraplegic while a pilot in an aircraft accident). He ended his days in a powered wheelchair as an Associate Professor of ASL.
Unusual, to be sure, but our main tribute here is for his attempt to serve (with ASL interpreter, of course) on a jury in a criminal trial ---a first attempt in New York State. He wanted to serve not because it's fun, which it definitely is not, but to make a point. Newspapers reported it, describing him as “deaf and dumb”, though he had understandable speech.
The defense lawyer rejected him, probably on the lawyer's distrust of the accuracy of sign interpretation, or perhaps simple audism (What?!?, a "DEAF" juror? Hahaha), or both. The lawyer justified it for the media with this everybody-knows proclamation:
“Because of an act of God, he cannot do certain things. He is not qualified to be a juror, just as he is not qualified to serve in the front lines of the army.”
He could have said the following and sound just as small-brained:
“Because of an act of God, he cannot do certain things. He is not qualified to be a juror, just as he is not qualified to study anthropology, film a war, fly an aircraft, or scale Mt. Rainier."
However, the lawyer's thoughts in the matter are better explained in the commentary below:
You can read lots about Alec and see him in a video. Just Google his name.
In tribute to Oliver Sacks.....................
"People will make a life in their own terms, whether they are deaf or color blind or autistic or whatever. Their world will be quite as rich and interesting and full as our world". Oliver Sacks
The death of Oliver Sacks was recently announced. One of his several adventures and major works was the book, Seeing Voices: A Journey Into the World of the Deaf (2000). It was inspired in part by Harlan Lane's When the Mind Hears: A History of the Deaf.
Lane's book was around for 16 years before Sack's book, is somewhat academic, and wasn't widely popular. Sack's book was for everyone and was the first to widely open the Deaf world ----some of its history, culture, and language. It is still popular, and in the eyes of some, a great work. ____________________________________________________________
In tribute to Audree Norton............................
Our most pioneering Deaf actress, and one of the founders of the National Theater of the deaf, left us in 2015. Her obituary in the New York Times, can be read here:
(Below) From an American Eugenics Publication ----deaf immigrants, early 20th Century
Note the comment that immigrants with acquired deafness are not a "biological or eugenical menace", whereas those born deaf should not be allowed into our country "under any circumstances", and if already here should be eliminated by "proper eugenic measures" ----which meant deportation or sterilization ----- so they don't produce any like themselves.
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