A deaf-mute from birth, John Carlin studied art in the United States, England, and France, launching an impressive career as a painter and writer upon his return to Philadelphia in 1841. He exhibited his art widely, published his poems and other literary efforts, and was popular among his peers in both arenas. Although his wife was also deaf, all of their children had normal hearing. Carlin’s ability to compose verse — without having heard human speech or song — is still considered highly unusual. His support for the deaf community led him to encourage Edward M. Gallaudet to found an academy for deaf-mutes, which became Gallaudet College. Carlin was awarded the school’s first degree, a master of arts, in 1865.