Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Baker, Charles (1803-1874)

For works with similar titles, see Charles Baker.

BAKER, CHARLES (1803–1874), instructor of the deaf and dumb, was the second son of Thomas Baker, of Birmingham, and was born 31 July 1803. While a youth he was for a short time an assistant at the Deaf and Dumb Institution at Edgbaston, near Birmingham. He then tried other employments, but his services were again sought by the committee of the institution, when in a difficulty on the failure of their master, who was a Swiss, to control the pupils. Charles Baker had never contemplated teaching as a profession, but without much thought for the future he entered upon his work. He at once obtained the affections of the children, and, to their delight, he remained at the institution. Three years afterwards he was invited to aid in the establishment at Doncaster of a Deaf and Dumb Institution for the county of York. The plan had originated with the Rev. William Fenton, in company with whom he visited all the large towns of the county, and obtained such support as justified the carrying out of the scheme. The deficiency of class-books was an evil which Baker soon found to be pressing. Although the deaf and dumb had been gathered together in various institutions for forty years, no attempt had been made to provide such a course as they required. This want he set himself to supply. He wrote the 'Circle of Knowledge' in its various gradations, consecutive lessons, picture lessons, teachers' lessons, the 'Book of the Bible' in its several gradations, and many other works which had special relation to the teaching of the deaf and dumb. The 'Circle of Knowledge' obtained great popularity. It was used in the education of the royal children, and of the grandchildren of Louis-Philippe. It has been largely used in the colonies and in Russia, and the first gradation has been translated into Chinese, and is used in the schools of China and Japan. Many years ago the publisher reported that 400,000 copies had been sold. Baker also wrote for the 'Penny Cyclopædia' various topographical articles, and those on the ' Instruction of the Blind,' 'Dactylology,' 'Deaf and Dumb,' 'George Dalgarno,' and the 'Abbé Sicard'. He contributed to the 'Journal of Education,' to the 'Polytechnic Journal,' and the publications of the Central Society of Education, and translated Amman's 'Dissertation on Speech' (1873). He was an active worker in connection with the local institutions of Doncaster, and was a member of the committee for the establishment of a public free library for the town. He was held in high regard by teachers of the deaf and dumb in England and in America, and in June 1870 the Columbian Institution of the Deaf and Dumb conferred on him the degree of doctor of philosophy, an honour which he appreciated, but he never assumed the title. He died at Doncaster 27 May 1874, and his old pupils erected a mural tablet to his memory in the institution where he had laboured so long.

[Information from Sir Thomas Baker; American Annals of the Deaf and Dumb (with portrait), XX. 201.]

C. W. S.