The French Connection, Part II

Now we come to the famous car chase of the French Connection, probably one of the most memorable movie chases ever. The chase involves Popeye Doyle driving a 1971 Pontiac following his suspect under the tracks of an elevated train in New York City. While Popeye ultimately gets his man, there are lots of problems along the way. The usual near misses with bullets, lots of scars and dents left on the chase car and others at the end of the day. In our REAL French Connection, the chase involved a number of individuals in various countries that all began to work with the deaf at about the same time. These dedicated individuals, teaching the deaf to read and speak but using several different methods, each feeling that their method was the best as it had worked for them and their students. Like Popeye’s chase of his suspect, education of the hearing impaired had a number of near misses, dents, skids, scars, successes and failures.  Today, we might offer that there were many unknown variables of hearing loss at the time, such as degree, type, configuration and other issues that probably had some bearing on the effectiveness of these early methods.  As Audiologists we know that the variance among hearing losses and people can effect the outcome of an education, even today!  Variances among hearing losses undoubtedly providing catalyst for success of some programs and techniques at the expense of others (we still have dents, skids, and near misses).   A contemporary of de l’Epee’  and Sicard was a German math teacher, Samuel Heineke.  Burke (2004) indicates that Heineke (1729-1790)  was the “father of Oral Deaf Education” and began his school in 1777 in Leipzig, Germany.  Heineke was directly influenced by a Swiss physician, Johann Conrad Amman who wrote a famous book in 1770 called “The Speaking Deaf”, in which he strongly stated that the oral method was the best for deaf people.   At first, Heinicke used only writing, sign, and gesture to teach but soon he felt that was not enough and he began using speech and lipreading to teach. He taught speech by having students feel the throat. Heinicke felt strongly that having access to spoken language was critical to the development of the thought process. Ironically, though, he had to use sign language and gesturing until his students succeeded in learning to talk. According to at least one resource, Heinicke had developed a Language Machine to represent the mechanisms of speech and  also used food to teach speech.  During their lifetimes, Heineke and de l’ Epee’ were in direct communiation with via letters (still available today in the Library of Congress).  A concern, however,  of some early educators of the deaf was that their teaching methods were to be their family legacy and business and, unlike the champions of the French and German methods, they were very secretive about how they taught the Deaf.   One such person was a comtemporary of de l’ Epee’, Sicard, and Heineke; a Scotsman, Thomas Braidwood (1715-1806).  Braidwood developed his own secretive method of teaching the deaf and in 1760, about the same time as de l”Epee in Paris and founded the first school for the deaf in Great Britan, The Braidwood Academy for the Deaf and Dumb in Grove House, off Mare Street, Hackney, a London suburb at the time. (2011) documents that his early use of a form of sign language, the combined system, was the forerunner of British Sign Language,  recognized as a language in its own right in 2003. Braidwood’s combined system (the beginnings of “total Communication”)  is known among British Deaf historians as the Braidwoodian Method. His kinsman Joseph Watson joined him in 1784. Watson went on to become the first head teacher of the London Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb which was established in Bermondsey in November 1792, teaching many notables in British society.  As you can see, the connection of education of the deaf with America bounces around for time, but it finally lands with a huge French Connection……..Stay with Hearing International for next weeks cast of characters including influencial women, boozers, visionaries, and intellectuals dedicated to the hearing impaired in next week’s conclusion of the French Connection ………..RMT




References, Thomas Braidwood.  Retrieved from the World Wide Web June1, 2011:

Bender, R., (1960).  The Conquest of Deafness, Press of Case Western Reserve:  Cleveland, Ohio.

Braidwood Academy for the Deaf and Dumb Plaque photo, Retrieved from the World Wide WebJune 1, 2011:

Burke, J. (2004).  People-Samuel Heineke – Father of Oral Education,, Retrieved from the World Wide Web June1, 2011:

French Connection (1971). 20th Century Fox, Los Angeles, CA. Internet Movie Database, Retrieved from the World Wide Web May 22, 2011:

Lang, H., (20110).  Genesis of the Communicty:  The American Deaf Experience in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, In The Deaf Reader, J. Van Cleve, Editor:  Retrieved from the world Wide Web June, 1,2011:

Unknown, (2011). The History of ASD, The American School for the Deaf, Retrieved from the World Wide Web June 1, 2011:



About Robert Traynor

Robert M. Traynor is a board certified audiologist with 45 years of clinical practice in audiology. He is a hearing industry consultant, trainer, professor, conference speaker, practice manager, and author. He has 45 years experience teaching courses and training clinicians within the field of audiology with specific emphasis in hearing and tinnitus rehabilitation. Currently, he is an adjunct professor in various university audiology programs.