Ponce, Pedro

Ponce, Pedro a Spanish Benedictine monk in the convent of Ofia, in Old Castile, was born about 1530. He is considered the inventor of the art of teaching the dumb to speak, which he carried to considerable perfection. According to Ambrosio Morales (Antiguedades de Espana [Alcala, 1575], fiol. 38), Ponce had to instruct two brothers and one sister of the constable of Castile and a son of the gran justicia of Aragon, all of whom were born deaf and dumb. These pupils made such progress that, after some time, they not only were able to write correctly, but also to answer any questions put to them. One of them, Don Pedro de Velasco, who lived to be only twenty years of age, spoke and wrote Latin as well as his mother tongue, and was at the time of his death making considerable progress in the Greek language. Another of Ponce's pupils became a Benedictine monk, and was able to make confession and explain his creed by word of mouth. These facts were attested by the best Spanish writers of the time, as well as by Sir Kenelm Digby, who, in his Two Treatises concerning the Body and Soul of Man (Paris, 1644, cap. 28, note 8), says, "This priest brought the young lord to speak as distinctly as any man whatsoever; and I have often discoursed with him whiles I wayted upon the prince of Wales in Spaine." According to the same author (p. 254), and to Juan de Castafiiza (Vida de San Benito), Ponce wrote a treatise in Spanish, in which he explained his method, and laid down certain rules as the result of his observations; but this interesting work has been lost, though it is generally believed that Juan Pablo Bonet, who in 1620 published his Reduccion de lns Letras, y Arte para enseñar á hablar los Mudos (4to), saw and consulted it. Ponce died in 1584, and was buried in the convent of his order.

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