Today, a Google Doodle is celebrating the UK's most widely-used communication for the deaf and Braidwood's Academy, the place where it all began. An estimated 151,000 people use British Sign Language in the UK.
Who was Thomas Braidwood?
Thomas Braidwood was born in South Lanarkshire, Scotland in 1715, and established himself as a writing teacher educating wealthy children from his home. After accepting his first deaf pupil, 10-year-old Charles Shirreff in 1760, Braidwood devoted himself to teaching the deaf.
He established Braidwood's Academy for the Deaf and Dumb in Edinburgh, the first such school in the UK, and by 1780 had 20 pupils as his teaching methods proved successful. The renowned 18th century writer Samuel Johnson visited the establishment in 1773 while travelling through Scotland.
He wrote: "It was pleasing to see one of the most desperate of human calamities capable of so much help: whatever enlarges hope will exalt courage." Braidwood had a wife, Margaret Pearson, and three daughters all born in Scotland who later followed in their father's footsteps by becoming teachers of the deaf.
In 1783, Braidwood moved with his family to Hackney, East London, where he established a second school. The form of sign language which Braidwood used to educate his pupils ultimately laid the groundwork for the British Sign Language used today.