Charles Sydney Bluemel


Photograph of Charles Sydney BluemelCharles Sydney Bluemel was one of the founding fathers in the field of speech pathology.He received a medical degree at the University of Colorado, specializing in psychiatry.

Bluemel is best known for his distinction between primary (simple) and secondary (complex) stuttering (Bluemel, 1932).His theories about the cause of stuttering changed over the years.He first saw it as originating in the sensory imaging system—a breakdown in auditory imagery or what he called his auditory amnesia theory or transitory auditory amnesia (Bluemel, 1913).Later he elaborated on that theory saying that it was not in the weak auditory imaging, but a sudden break in consciousness resulting from a mental recoil from saying a particular word or vowel (Bluemel, 1930).In his 1935 book, Bluemel attributed the cause of stuttering to a conflict between inhibition of speech caused by trauma and the desire to speak.Finally, in Bluemel’s latest writings (1954, 1957, 1962), he took a more wholistic view of stuttering (mild nonfluency) and stammering (severe nonfluency), seeing both conditions as a general disorganization in a person’s thinking or neuromuscular system.Disorganization, especially in cases of severe stammering was a psychoneurotic reaction to situational stress (1956, 1962).Bluemel argued for therapies that treat stammering (more complex stuttering) as a mental phenomenon rather than a physical one.His particular therapeutic emphases was on reducing stress and working on “thinking the words” rather than on pronouncing them (1957).

Charles Bluemel was born in 1884 in England.His family had a manufacturing firm, the Bluemel Brothers, that made bicycle and automobile accessories.

Bluemel had difficulty with stuttering and asthma as a child. In 1896, when he was 12 years old he was sent to a boarding school on the south coast of England to help relieve his asthma.His stuttering increased while he was there.He returned home and attended a school in London for stammerers (Beasley School).His stuttering improved when he was there, but returned when he went back to his boarding school.

Bluemel came to the US in 1906, at age 22, after having seen an advertisement from the Lewis School in Detroit Michigan, promising a stuttering cure.He was disappointed with the therapy, and commented to his biographer (McDearmon, 1960) that he felt the therapy (swinging one’s arm in a figure 8 pattern as one enunciated syllables) was more stigmatizing than the stuttering. (He later told Lewis that unless he got his money back, he would sue, and Lewis obligingly returned Bluemel his money.)

Bluemel left the Lewis School after three months and went to Denver hoping to find relief from his asthma.He did, and returned home to England to resume his work.His asthma increased there, and he also developed TB.Remembering that his health improved when he was in Denver, Colorado, he returned there.

In Denver, Bluemel went to medical school, at the University of Colorado, specializing in psychiatry.His thesis was on his theory of “transitory auditory amnesia”in which the stutterer is unable to recall the auditory image of a vowel following a consonant.While this hypothesis was not popular in the field, another hypothesis that he offered later, having to do with the differences between primary and secondary stuttering, was highly influential (Wingate, 1976).

Charles Bluemel married Elinor Hensley in 1921 and they had two children, Andrew Charles and William Edward.

Bluemel was the medical superintendent at Mt Airy Sanitarium, Denver, and the attending Neurologist at St Lukes Hospital and Children's Hospital in Denver.He was a Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, a member of the Colorado Neurological Society, and the Central Neuro-Psychiatric Association.He served as editor of the Colorado Medical Journal in 1924-25. He had a Licentiate from the Royal College of Physicians in London.

Bluemel was also active in the early days of the American Speech and Hearing Association, serving on a number of committees.He received Honors of the Association in 1960 and was a fellow of ASHA.

Writings of Bluemel, Arranged Chronologically

Bluemel, C. (1913). Stammering and cognate defects of speech I & II. NY: G Stechert & Co.

Bluemel, C. (1919). A new treatment for the morphine habit. Journal of the American Medical Association, 72, 552, 884.

Bluemel, C. (1919). Answer to Ernest Tompkins. Quarterly Journal of Speech Education, 5, 1919, p. 403.

Bluemel, C. (1921). Stammering—A bibliography of the past decade—1911 to 1920 Inclusive. Laryngoscope, 31, p. 709.

Bluemel, C. (1922). The heart of the anti-vivisectionist. Denver, Colorado: Association for the Protection of Public Health.

Bluemel, C. (1930). Mental aspects of stammering. Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins.

Bluemel, C. (1930). Stammering as an impediment of thought. Proceedings of the American Speech Correction Association. 1, 27-32.

Bluemel, C. (1931). Stammering; A bibliography of the past decade—1921-1930, Laryngscope, 41, p. 783. .

Bluemel, C. (1932). Primary and secondary stammering. Quarterly Journal of Speech, 18, 187-200.Also in Proceedings of the American Society for the Study of Speech Disorders, 91-102.

Bluemel, C. (1933). The dominant gradient in stammering. Quarterly Journal of Speech, 19, 233-242.

Bluemel, C. (1935). Stammering and allied disorders. NY: The Macmillan Co.

Bluemel, C. (1938, 1948). The troubled mind: A study of nervous and mental illness. Baltimore, MD.

Bluemel, C. S. (1940). Stammering and inhibition. Journal of Speech Disorders, 5, 305-308.

Bluemel, C. (1941). Journal of the American Medical Association, 96, 1846-1848.

Bluemel, C. (1943/1956). C. S. Bluemel. In E. Hahn (Ed.). Stuttering: Significant theories and therapies. (p.6-9). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Bluemel, C. (1948). War, politics and insanity (1st ed.). Denver: World Press.

Bluemel, C. (1950). War, politics and insanity (2nd ed.). Denver: World Press.

Bluemel, C. (1954.). Psychiatry and common sense. NY: Macmillan.

Bluemel, C. (1957). The riddle of stuttering. Danville, Il: Interstate Publishing Company.

Bluemel, C. S. (1960). Concepts of stammering: A century in review. Journal of Speech and Hearing Disorders, 25, 24-32.

Bluemel, C. S. (1962). Organization of speech as basic therapy: How speech is made and unmade. In D. Barbara (Ed.), The psychotherapy of stuttering (pp. 48-59). Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas.

Writings about Charles Bluemel

Clark, R. (1964). Our enterprising predecessors and Charles Sydney Bluemel. ASHA, 6, 108-114.

Glasner, P. J. & Vermilyea F. D. (1953). An investigation of the definition and uses of the diagnosis of primary stuttering. Journal of Speech and Hearing Disorders, 18, 161-167.

Kenyon, E. (1940). A critical examination of the foundations of the ‘recoil of the vowel’ theory of the cause of the impediment of the speech in stammering. Journal of Speech Disorders, 5, June, 97-112.

Kuster, J.

McDearmon, J. (1960). A study of the development of Dr. C. S. Bluemel’s theories of stammering.Unpublished Ph.D. Thesis, University of Denver.

Murray, E. (1957). The C. S. Bluemel collection on stuttering. Journal of Speech and Hearing Disorders, 22, 5.

Wingate, M. (1976). Stuttering: Theory and treatment. New York: Irvington-Wiley.

Honors award (with photo) from American Speech and Hearing Association, ASHA, March 1961, p. 86.

Audio: An excerpt of Bluemel’s voice from a 1957 speech at ASHA in Cincinnati, Ohio is on Judith Kuster’s website.Go to