Ten Notable People You Didn't Know Were Deaf
10 Notable People You Didn’t Know Were Deaf
Here is our list of ten notable people that are deaf or hard-of-hearing. Most of them have contributed and impacted deaf culture forever.
American Inventor, Thomas Edison, developed hearing problems at an early age. The cause of his deafness has been attributed to a bout of scarlet fever during childhood and recurring untreated middle-ear infections. Around the middle of his career, Edison attributed the hearing loss to being struck on the ears by a train conductor when his chemical laboratory in a boxcar caught fire and he was thrown off the train. In his later years, he modified the story to say the injury occurred when the conductor, in helping him onto a moving train, lifted him by the ears. His inventions included the first electric light, carbon telephone transmitter, fluoroscopy, motion pictures and telegraph improvements.
Norwegian-Canadian descent, Casar is an influencer and entertainer. Casar is Former Miss Canada, Miss Global Peace, Deaf International Entrepreneur and a Gender Equality Activist. She has a Masters Degree in Genetics and is a United Nations Youth Champion. Casar was the First Deaf Speaker at the International Woman’s Day 2016-17 where she was on a panel with actress Anne Hathaway, the Primer Minister of Iceland, and Ravi Karkara, Phumzile Mlambo and Lakshmi Puri of the United Nations. She is working towards bridging the gap between the Deaf and Hearing and changing the world of work for women with disabilities.
Ferdinand Berthier was a deaf educator, intellectual and political organiser in nineteenth-century France, and is one of the earliest champions of deaf identity and culture. Berthier first attended the famous school for the Deaf in Paris as a young student in 1811, when the school was under the directorship of Abbé Roch-Ambroise Sicard. He came from the rural south-east of France to learn basic vocational skills and literacy to prepare him for work as a tradesman. He was influenced by his teacher Roch-Ambroise Auguste Bébian, a hearing man who had learned French Sign Language and published the first systematic study and defense of the language. Berthier was also struck by two important deaf students of the school who later became teachers: Jean Massieu and Laurent Clerc. By the age of 27 Berthier had become one of the more senior professors at the school.
Educator, lecturer, writer, actress. Helen Keller was born with the ability to see and hear. At 19 months old, she contracted an illness described by doctors as “an acute congestion of the stomach and the brain”, which might have been scarlet fever or meningitis. The illness left her both deaf and blind. At that time, she was able to communicate somewhat with Martha Washington, the six-year-old daughter of the family cook, who understood her signs; by the age of seven, Keller had more than 60 home signs to communicate with her family. One of her earliest pieces of writing, at age 11, was The Frost King (1891). At age 22, Keller published her autobiography, The Story of My Life (1903). Keller wrote The World I Live In in 1908
South African-born British poet David Wright was born hearing in Johannesburg, South Africa 23 February 1920. When he was 7 years old he contracted scarlet fever and was deafened as a result of the disease. He immigrated to England at the age of 14, where he was enrolled in the Northampton School for the Deaf. He studied at Oriel College, Oxford, and graduated in 1942. Wright was not reticent about his deafness, and his autobiography, Deafness: A Personal Account (1969), is often used to give hearing people an insight into an experience they might not easily imagine.
Slovenian professional basketball player, Miha Zupan, is one of the most successful deaf athletes in the world. Miha plays professional basketball since 2000. He’s the first deaf player ever to play in either World Cup (2010, 2014), Eurobasket (2015) or Euroleague.
Bill Clinton is an American politician who served as the 42nd President of the United States from 1993 to 2001. In October 1997, he announced he was getting hearing aids, due to high frequency hearing loss attributed to the exposure to loud rock music and noise from hunting rifles and political rallies.
Oliver Heaviside, a British engineer, was a self-taught English electrical engineer, mathematician, and physicist who adapted complex numbers to the study of electrical circuits, invented mathematical techniques for the solution of differential equations (equivalent to Laplace transforms), reformulated Maxwell’s field equations in terms of electric and magnetic forces and energy flux, and independently co-formulated vector analysis. Although at odds with the scientific establishment for most of his life, Heaviside changed the face of telecommunications, mathematics, and science for years to come.
Mythbuster co-host, actor, educator, industrial design & special effects designer Adam Savage is a self described atheist. He wears a hearing aid on his left ear due to a congenital condition, otosclerosis. He is also a practiced juggler as seen on Mythbusters. Savage has a lifelong interest in costume making and cosplay. He said, “I remember my mom getting me a ‘Jaws’ costume when ‘Jaws’ came out…and wearing a Batman costume. Back then, everyone dressed up as hobos.” He strives for authenticity with his costumes.
John Howard was the 25th Prime Minister of Australia, serving from 11 March 1996 to 3 December 2007. Hard-of-hearing since youth, Mr Howard wore two hearing aids throughout his professional career. Mr Howard was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian award, recognising exceptional meritorious service – the honour roll includes Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela.