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Significant Scots
George Dalgarno


DALGARNO, GEORGE, [I am indebted for this article to the Supplement to the sixth edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica; the only source from which I am aware that the information contained in it could have been derived.] an almost forgotten, but most meritorious and original writer, was born in Old Aberdeen, about the year 1626. He appears to have studied at Marischal college, New Aberdeen, but for what length of time, or with what objects, is wholly unknown. In 1657 he went to Oxford, where, according to Anthony Wood, he taught a private grammar school with good success for about thirty years. He died of a fever on the 28th of August, 1687, and was buried, says the same author, "in the north body of the church of St Mary Magdalen." Such is the scanty biography that has been preserved, of a man who lived in friendship with the most eminent philosophers of his day, and who, besides other original speculations, had the singular merit of anticipating, more than a hundred and thirty years ago, some of the most profound conclusions of the present age respecting the education of the deaf and dumb. His work upon this subject is entitled, "Didascalocophus, or the Deaf and Dumb Man’s Tutor," and was printed in a very small volume at Oxford, in 1680. He states the design of it to be, to bring the way of teaching a deaf man to read and write, as near as possible to that of teaching young ones to speak and understand their mother tongue. "In prosecution of this general idea," says an eminent philosopher of the present day, who has, on more than one occasion, done his endeavour to rescue the name of Dalgarno from oblivion, "he has treated one short chapter, of a deaf man’s dictionary; and, in another, of a grammar for deaf persons; both of them containing a variety of precious hints, from which useful practical lights might be derived by all who have any concern in the tuition of children, during the first stage of their education." (Mr. Dugald Stewart’s Account of a boy born blind and deaf.) Twenty years before the publication of his Didascalocophus, Dalgarno had given to the world a very ingenious piece, entitled, Ars Signorum, from which, says Mr Stewart, it appears indisputable that he was the precursor of Bishop Wilkins in his speculations respecting "a real character and a philosophical language." Leibnitz has on various occasions, alluded to the Ars Signorum in commendatory terms. Both of these works of Dalgarno are now exceedingly rare.

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