- historical event: Charles-Michel de l’Epee – also called the “Father of the Deaf” – decided to establish a school for the hearing-impaired with his own money. That school, located in Paris, became the first European school for the deaf.
Charles-Michel de l’Epee, also called the “Father of the Deaf”, was born of this day. He earned his nickname thanks to his efforts in the area of communication with the hearing-impaired. He was born into a wealthy family in the French city of Versailles near Paris. In year of his birth, 1712, Versailles was probably the greatest center of power in the world, because the famous court of “Sun King” Louis XIV was located there. That powerful French king had just recently managed to put his grandson Philip on the Spanish throne, so that the Bourbon dynasty ruled both France and Spain (the Bourbons rule in Spain to this day, since King Juan Carlos is a direct male descendant of Louis XIV).
Charles-Michel de l’Epee became a priest, and focused on helping the poor. He encountered two young deaf sisters who communicated using a sort of sign language. He dedicated himself to the education of these sisters and developing signing alphabet for the hearing-impaired. When he accomplished that, he decided to establish a school for the hearing impaired with his own money. That school, located in Paris, became the first European school for the deaf.
Due to his efforts and successes, l’Epee became known throughout Europe. Even the Austrian Emperor Joseph II visited his school during his visit to Paris. Sign language helped deaf and mute people to defend themselves in court and to participate in religious sacraments. After his death, Charles-Michel de l’Epee was declared a “Benefactor of Humanity”. However, he remains relatively unknown despite his historical merit.