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  Deaf History, Europe

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1779 - 1823: Peter Atke Castberg (DK)

1779 - 1823: Peter Atke Castberg (DK)

Castberg was provided with a grant from the King of Denmark to study deaf education in Europe for two years (1803 - 1805), including de l'Epée school in Paris.

At his return in 1805, Castberg began teaching eight deaf children, and on April 17, 1807, the King signed the charter for Døvsstumme-Institutet i Kiøbenhavn (The Institute of the Deaf-Mute in Copenhagen).

Castberg was very positive about the use of sign language in the teaching of deaf children and was critical of de l'Epée's so-called 'methodical signs' invented to represent grammatical categories of spoken French.

selskab2

Jørgen tells "Red Top" Nielsen about Peter Atke Castberg, one of the very big names in Danish deaf history.


"In the beginning of the nineteenth century, the medical doctor Peter Atke Castberg conducted experiments in Copenhagen with electric stimulation of deaf persons' hearing. The results were very discouraging, however, and extremely painful for the patients, and Castberg ultimately gave up the experiments. But during two visits to discuss similar experiments at the Institute for Deaf-Mutes in Kiel in 1802 and 1803, he saw children signing.

A further inspiration was the French playwright Jean-Nicolas Bouilly's piece L'Abbé de l'Epée, which was performed in theatres all over Europe at the beginning of the nineteenth century.

(...)

After his uncussessful experiments, Castberg was provided with a grant from the King of Denmark to study deaf education in Europe for two years (1803 - 1805), including de l'Epée school in Paris.

At his return in 1805, Castberg began teaching eight deaf children, and on April 17, 1807, the King signed the charter for Døvsstumme-Institutet i Kiøbenhavn (The Institute of the Deaf-Mute in Copenhagen).

Castberg was very positive abouot the use of sign language in the teaching of deaf children and was critical of de l'Epée's so-called 'methodical signs' invented to represent grammatical categories of spoken French. 

(...)

In his writings, Castberg complained that the signs used by deaf people for the same concept varied a lot but found that the best way to create signs that were consistent with the nature of sign language was to ask deaf persons of some intelligence to make a sign, once the concept had been explained to them. According to one of his students, Castberg was himself a very skilled signer.

(..)

The teaching at the institute in Copenhagen was also dominated by signing after Castberg's death in 1823. In 1845, however, one of the teachers, H.V. Dahlerup, received a grant to study the German oral method. After his return, he got permission to use the German method with a few children, an experiment that ended with an exam in 1849. The board of the institute was not impressed and allowed a continuation of the speech method only for children wo were described awkwardly as uegentligt dovstumme, i.e. 'not genuinely deaf-mute' children.

Dahlerup left the institute and founded a private school based on the speech meethod, a school that grew in importance especially after it was taken over by J. Keller in 1855. Following a heated debate between Keller and the headmaster of the institute, H.R. Malling Hansen, the authorities decided in 1867 that all deaf children should be admitted to the institute. After one month, the children were tested and it was decided who was 'genuinely deaf-mute' and should remain at the institute, and who was 'not genuinely deaf-mute' and should be transferred to Keller's school. The system of separating the children according to these somewhat obscure criteria continued for years." 

In: Sign Languages, by Diane Brentari, Cambridge University Press27 May 2010

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