The National Institute for Deaf Youth

This site is a testament to a great revolutionary ambition: the claim that a disability is not a punishment or a fatality. All men are perfectible. Education, treatment and science can help the disabled progress and integrate society. In Paris, Father de l’Epée developed a sign language before dying in 1789 when the Revolution broke out. Founded two years later in 1791, the National Institute for the Deaf-Mute was first located in the Celestine monastery, with the National Institute for Blind Youth. In 1794, it was gradually transferred to the premises that still house it today.

Charles-Michel de l’Epée (1721-1789), Voluntarily Taught the Deaf and Mute

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Victor of Aveyron, the wild child

Historical Note on the Wild Boy from the Aveyron, and a Few Other Individuals that Were Found in Forests, at Different Time Periods

It was at the National Institute for Deaf Youth where a variety of educational experiments were conducted in order to prove that the French Revolution and the young Republic were capable of creating new men. In 1800, a child named Victor was welcomed to the National Institute for Deaf Youth by Father Sicard. He was different from the other boarders: recently captured in the Aveyron department, he was nicknamed the “wild child.” He seemed to have lived alone in the forest for many years. At the Institute, the child became a constant subject of experiments. All the tests that were performed on him were carried out to find out if the “wildest” of men could become the equal of others thanks to education.

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