Who was Thomas Braidwood? Google celebrates British Sign Language with a Doodle and video


Who was Thomas Braidwood?

Mr Braidwood began his career in education by teaching the children of wealthy families at his home in Canongate in Edinburgh.

However, he decided to open Braidwood’s Academy for the Deaf and Dumb and became a pioneer in early sign language.

The school got off to a slow start – when it first opened he only had one student, Charles Shirreff, the 11-year-old son of a wealthy wine merchant.

But by 1780, his school had 20 pupils as his reputation spread and three years later, the school moved to London.

How did he influence British Sign Language?

Mr Braidwood laid the foundation for today’s British Sign Language (BSL) by using a new method of teaching, known as the “combined system”. 

This method focused on hand gestures and signing as a way of communicating, rather than relying on lip-reading and pushing children to speak, which was the norm elsewhere in Britain and Europe at the time.