A People Remarkable for Action and Gesticulation: Sir William Wilde and His 1854 Survey on Deaf People

Autor/a: BOSCO CONAMA, John
Año: 2023
Editorial: Sign Language Studies, 23(2), 137-163
Tipo de código: Copyright
Soporte: Digital


Historia, Arte y Cultura


This article is a critical review of a book by Sir William Wilde (better known as the father of Oscar Wilde) entitled On the Physical, Moral, and Social Condition of the Deaf and Dumb (1854). This book, which is based on the demographic and medical information that he collected from "deaf and dumb" people in the early 1850s, not only contains medical details on how people acquired deafness but also provides a social commentary on many related topics, such as how deaf and dumb people communicated, how they lived, hereditary deafness, and their marital status, intelligence, and education. Wilde's social commentary in the book is a central focus of this discussion.

Wilde, a well-known physician in Ireland and Europe, formed various opinions on the above topics and, even by nineteenth-century standards, adopted a somewhat open-minded attitude towards deaf people. However, he was still a product of his time. This article attempts to bring to light a heretofore unknown figure in deaf history and his views on sign language and the deaf to better understand how Irish society in the mid-nineteenth century perceived deaf people. This analysis of Wilde's book can play a significant role in this understanding.