John Wallis


Portrait of WallisJohn Wallis was a Renaissance man not only because he lived during those times, but because he had many interests—including mathematics, logic, religion, philosophy, language, and education of the deaf.

Wallis was educated at Cambridge University in the UK. He was also bishop of Winchester, and chaplain at several churches in London and eventually became the royal chaplain, and member of a committee to revise the prayer book.

During the civil war between the Royalists and Parliamentarians in the UK, Wallis sided with the Parliamentarians. He used his skills in cryptography to decode Royalist messages, resulting in one of his many claims to fame.

Wallis was appointed to the Savilian Chair of geometry at Oxford in 1649, some felt illegitimately because of his close relationship to Cromwell. He held that chair for over 50 years, until his death in 1703.

Wallis was among the core group founding members of the Royal Society of London, a group of scholars devoted to promoting scientific (Baconian) philosophy and scholarship.

Wallis is among those who are mentioned as 17th century contributors to the history of the deaf. He taught two deaf students to speak, one, named Alexander Popham who was previously a student of William Holder. Both Wallis and Holder claimed to be the first to teach the deaf to speak. Their battle for being first ended up being their main claim to fame as contributors to deaf history.

Writings by Wallis

Wallis, J. (1670). Two persons deaf and dumb taught to speak and understand a language. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, 61, 1087.

Other information about Wallis

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