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Laurent Clerc Biography

Louis Laurent Marie Clerc called “The Apostle of the Deaf in America” was a French teacher. He was a student to Abbe Sicard, at the Institution Nationale des Sourds-Muets located in Paris.

Laurent Clerc

It wasn’t sure if he was deaf by birth or after a fatal accident that took place when he was a child. In 1817, he co-founded the first school for the deaf in North America which was later renamed as the American School for the Deaf in 1821.

Laurent Clerc’s Family

Clerc was born into one of the most prominent family in his time. He was born to Joseph Francois on December 26, 1785, in La Balme-Les-Grottes, France. His father was the royal civil attorney, justice of the peace and a mayor of a village over a decade.

From the 15th century, the males of the Clerc family served the king through the Royal Commissary. He was married to a woman named Eliza Crocker Broadman in 1819. A year later, the first of their six children Elizabeth Victoria, was born.

Laurent Clerc: Early life and career

When Clerc was about a year old, he fell off from a chair into the kitchen fireplace. A side of his face was severely burned due to the accident that took place. It was later discovered that his smelling and hearing ability was completed damaged.

For the next decade, he stayed at his home because he was deprived of education. In 1797, his godfather enrolled him to the Institution Nationale des Sourds-Muets.

Institution Nationale des Sourds-Muets, Paris

A teacher while trying to teach Clerc how to pronounce words was infuriated; giving a blow under his chin.

This caused him to never try to speak again. Thus, started the journey to help the deaf to seek education by the method of sign language only. At the age of 21, he was hired as a teacher in the same institution he learned to communicate.

Laurent Clerc’s Rise in fame

Gallaudet was an American who had put up a keen interest in deaf as well. At that time there were no schools in the United States for the deaf. Gathering support from his community he travelled in Europe to learn about the teaching methods.

Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet

He met Clerc in the Institution Nationale des Sourds-Muets, where he proposed Clerc to go to the United States and help him establish a school for the deaf there.

After arriving in Hartford, they started delivering lectures all over the globe to raise enough fund, they finally established their school in 1817.

Laurent Clerc as Head Teacher of American School for the Deaf

It was established in Hartford, originally called Connecticut Asylum later renamed as American School for the Deaf. The school was filled with uneducated students ranged from 10-51 years of age.

Clerc was named as the head teacher, while Gallaudet served as the principal of the institution. In 1819-1820 session, with the help of a congressman, Mr Clay a bill granting the school with 23,000 acres of government land in the state of Alabama. He retired at the age of 73 in 1858 and died at the age of 83.