Laurent Clerc

Teacher and mentor

When he was 12, Louis Laurent Marie Clerc of La Balme-les-Grottes, enrolled at the Institut National des Jeune Sourds-Muets in Paris. His first teacher and chief mentor was the remarkable Jean Massieu. Making rapid progress, he became the Institut’s prize pupil and a brilliant and beloved teacher. In 1816, he met Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet in London. Gallaudet spent 3 months at the Institut. Clerc volunteered to accompany him to the United States to help establish its first school for the deaf. The “Hartford Asylum” (today’s American School for the Deaf) opened on April 15, 1817, with Gallaudet and Clerc (who brought French Sign Language with him) as the original faculty. For 41 years, Clerc was the single most influential figure in Deaf education. He continues to inspire Deaf people.

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