Mason Fitch Cogswell
Cogswell was adopted by Samuel Huntington, president of the Continental Congress and governor of Connecticut, and graduated as valedictorian from Yale in 1780. He studied medicine with his brother James, at the soldiers' hospital in New York City during the American Revolution, and eventually became one of the best known surgeons in the country. He was the first in the United States to remove a cataract from the eye, and to tie the carotid artery (1803).
Dr. Mason Cogswell is a highly influential person with in American Deaf cultural history. His daughter, Alice, became Deaf at the age of two as a result of surviving scarlet fever. Though highly intelligent, her intellectual progress was slow. At this point, there was no established educational system for Deaf children, nor was there an established official language of the Deaf; though there did exist signed languages within the United States, such as Martha's Vineyard Sign Language, there was none which was standardized across the United States. Dr. Cogswell eventually had Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, his neighbor and member of his intellectual circle, travel to Europe to learn and bring back methods in instruction for the Deaf. Gallaudet first traveled to England, where an oral method was generally used, but was unable to gain access to instruction methods. He then traveled to France, where the educational system instead focused on use of French Sign Language as an instructional method. He eventually traveled back with French teacher Laurent Clerc who brought French Sign Language to the United States.
With their return, Dr. Mason Cogswell assisted in the founding of the first permanent school for the Deaf in North America in Hartford, Connecticut, in which his daughter was the first pupil.
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- Padden, Carol, and Tom Humphries. Inside Deaf Culture. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2005. Print.
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