Geronimo Cardano, a physician and mathematician living in Italy in the 16th century, was one of the first people to believe that deaf people were just as intelligent as hearing ones. Since the time of Aristotle, people had assumed that since the deaf could not be educated through traditional oral methods, they were incapable of learning.
Cardano, who was a scientist and deeply involved in learning, began studying how best to educate the deaf because of a son who was born unable to hear. Cardano used written lessons to educate his son, and was successful in teaching the child the same subjects and ideas that hearing children were learning at the time. His work proved that hearing was not a requirement for learning, and that the deaf were not unintelligent.
Cardano and his contemporaries Pedro Ponce de Leon and Juan Pablo de Bonet laid the groundwork for deaf education that would become more widespread in the future. Proving that the deaf could learn was the first step toward the work of those like Abee de l’Epee and Thomas Gallaudet.
Even though Cardano is a largely unknown figure whose work is centuries in the past, his influence has been felt through the history of deaf education even to modern times.