England, Holland, and Germany, this art was reduced to practice with more or less favorable results; instances of success were few and far between. About the year 1732, a young Israelite, who had come to France from Estremadura, being touched by the unhappy lot of a woman whom he loved, resolved to devote himself to the instruction of deaf-mutes. His name was Jacob Rodrigues Pereira. At La Rochelle, a boy thirteen years of age was brought to him; soon the lad was able to speak, so as to astonish all. The result was noised through the city; one of the grands fermiers had a deaf-mute son, whom Pereira undertook to instruct. After sixteen months of study, he presented his pupil to the Académie des Sciences. The assembly was delighted. Several of the members undertook to examine the case thoroughly, and on July 9, 1749, Buffon reported that the lad had answered questions "both in writing and by word of mouth." At the court of Louis XV. this marvel excited general admiration. The Duke de Chaulnes had a godson that was deaf, a boy of about twelve years; him he placed under the care of Pereira. This pupil, Saboureux de Fontenay, who in after-times attained to some celebrity, was very intelligent, and quickly improved under instruction. On being exhibited at the Académie des Sciences, and there tested in various exercises, he occasioned no little surprise. The official report concludes by stating that "M. Pereira possesses a singular gift of teaching congenital mutes to speak and read."
Pensioned by the king, and honored with marks of esteem by illustrious personages, Pereira continued his labors. He gave the power of speech to a large number of mutes, but he kept his method of education secret. The memory of this brilliant success had been wellnigh effaced, when the Abbe de l'Épée won the favor of all classes of society by giving to the deaf a sign-language. Pereira left behind him pupils who justly believed that they did honor to their master by making public the secret of their instruction; some of these scattered notes have been collected. It has required only a little research to discover the forgotten method. The teaching of deaf-mutes to speak was again brought into practice, and at Geneva M. Magnat was very successful in carrying out this system. He visited Paris, accompanied by some of his pupils, who, though utterly deaf, conversed with wonderful ease. Some grandsons and great-grandsons of Jacob Rodrigues Pereira, on witnessing the renewal of the wonders performed by their ancestor, founded at Paris an institution for educating mutes. In this establishment, children of various ages, about thirty in number, afford matter for curious observations upon the phenomenon of voice and the articulation of language.
- See an interesting sketch by M. Félix Hément, entitled "Jacob Rodrigues Pereire, premier instituteur des sourds-muets en France," 1875.
- The institution founded by the Messrs. Pereire, at 94 Avenue Villars, Paris, is directed by M. Magnat, author of the "Cours d'articulation, pour l'enseignement de la parole articulée aux sourds-muets," 1874.