Famous Deaf People: Two Of The Most Influential Deaf Men In History

While there are plenty of famous deaf people, I have chosen 2 whose accomplishments are part of history. That is not to say the others were not accomplished, as I’m sure they were, but this is the two I have selected for this article.

Ludwig van Beethoven was a German composer and pianist. A crucial figure in the transition between classical and romantic eras in western art music, he remains one of the most famous and influential of all composers.

beethovenBeethoven was born in Germany in December 1770 and died in Vienna, Austria, on March 26, 1827, at the young age of 56. Beethoven had two younger brothers, Casper born in 1774, and Johann, born in 1776. Beethoven’s mother Maria Magdalena van Beethoven was a genteel, moralistic woman.

However his father Johann, a mediocre court singer, was better known for his alcoholism, rather than any musical ability.

Sometime between the birth of his brothers, his father started to teach Ludwig music, with extraordinary rigour and brutality that affected him for the rest of his life. Neighbours provided accounts of the boy weeping while he played. He was made to stand on a footstool so he could reach the piano keys, his father beating him for each hesitation or mistake.

On a daily basis, Beethoven was flogged, locked in the cellar and deprived of sleep for extra hours of practice. He studied the violin and clavier with his father as well as taking additional lessons from organists around town.

Beethoven struggled with sums and spelling his entire life and as he so eloquently put it “music comes to me more readily than words” and when he was 10 left school to study full time.

In 1792 Beethoven was in Vienna and he dedicated himself to musical study with the most eminent musicians. Beethoven made his public debut in Vienna on March 29, 1795.Shortly after he published a series of 3 piano trios which were an enormous success.

As the new century came he composed piece after piece that marked him as a masterful composer – at the same time he was dealing with the fact that he was going deaf, which he tried desperately to conceal. For a variety of reasons he never married, but somehow despite his tumultuous life and complete deafness he remains one of the greatest composers of all time.

andrew-fosterAndrew Foster, an American born in 1925 was a missionary to the deaf in Ghana, Rwanda and other countries in Africa from 1956 to his death in 1987. Andrew was born the son of a coal miner. He and his younger brother became deaf due to spinal meningitis in 1936 at the tender age of 11.

He became the first Deaf African American to earn a bachelors degree from Gallaudet College and the first to earn a masters degree from Eastern Michigan University. He soon earned a second masters degree from Seattle Pacific Christian College ( now called Seattle Pacific University).

In 1956 he founded Christian Mission for the Deaf and eventually set out for Ghana, where he established the first school for the deaf on the entire continent of Africa.

Foster began his work in 1956 by convincing school officials to let him use their classrooms after hours. Within months the school had a waiting list of over 300 families wishing to send their children to the school. As the deaf began to become literate, Foster would supplement their education with trade skills, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Foster also convinced existing churches and missions to expand their ministry to include the deaf.

In 1970 Gallaudet granted Andrew Foster an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters in recognition of his accomplishments. Then in 1982 he received the SPU 1982 alumni The Medallion Award.

Then in 2004 Gallaudet University dedicated an auditorium in Andrew Fosters name, calling him the “Father of Deaf Education in Africa” He died at age 57 in a plane crash in Rwanda.