A Deaf Variety of the Human Race

Alexander Graham Bell studied eugenics, the science of improving a species. When he published "Upon the Formation of a Deaf Variety of the Human Race" in 1884, Bell issued a warning that deaf people were forming clubs, socializing with one another and, worst of all, marrying other deaf people. He concluded that the creation of a "deaf race" was underway.

Other researchers soon countered bell's empirical evidence: although deafness can be inherited, only a small percentage of deaf people have deaf children. But the image of an insular, inbred, and proliferating deaf culture became a potent weapon for the oralist cause. Bell's claims were widely repeated for years to come.

"Those who believe as I do, that the production of a defective race of human beings would be a great calamity to the world, will examine carefully the causes that lead to the intermarriage of the deaf with the object of applying a remedy ."

- Alexander Graham Bell

     
 

Bell's wife, Mabel Hubbard Bell, was deaf and a skilled speechreader.

 

Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

     
 

In this cartoon from an 1892 edition of the Silent Echo, Edward Miner Gallaudet, President of Gallaudet College, and Alexander Graham Bell spar over including deaf students in the college's teacher training program. Bell was opposed to deaf teachers because they would bring sign language to the schools.

Gallaudet University Archives

     

 

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