Jacob-Rodrigues Pereire portrait

Biography of Jacob-Rodrigues Pereira

Jacob-Rodrigues Pereira, better known as Pereire, was born in Peniche, Portugal on April 11, 1715, and died in Paris on 15 September, 1780. He was a descendant of a Marrano (Portuguese Crypto-Jews) family and was baptized with the name of Francisco António Rodrigues. His parents were Magalhães Rodrigues Pereira and Abigail Ribea Rodrigues. After his father's death, his mother fled with her son from Portugal to escape the Portuguese Inquisition and the charge that she had relapsed into heresy, first to Spain, and then about 1741 they settled at Bordeaux, France.

Painting of Jacob Rodrigues Pereira with a deaf childJacob-Rodrigues Pereire had a deaf and dumb sister and trying to communicate with her, he formulated signs for numbers and punctuation. Later on he adapted Juan Pablo Bonet's manual alphabet by adding 30 hand shapes each corresponding to a sound instead of to a letter. In 1746 a wealthy French family, the d'Etavignys, hired Pereire to instruct their son. He taught the boy to speak through his method of fingerspelling, called dactylology. The remarkable achievement was even presented to the King of France. Pereire was well compensated by this family and another who hired him, and dismissed Epee's methods when it became known. He took his method with him to the grave when he died in 1780. He is therefore seen as one of the inventors of manual language for the deaf and is credited with being the first person to teach a non-verbal deaf person to speak (see the nearby image). In 1759, he was made a member of the Royal Society of London.

Pereira was some kind of polymath. He was skilled in mathematics, physics, and designed and manufactured a calculating machine for his friend Baron Necker (see the calculating machine of Pereira). He had a thorough knowledge of ancient and modern languages. He successfully handled financial matters and discussed with Necker how to restore order in the finances of France.

His grandsons, the Péreire brothers, Emile Péreire (1800-75) and Isaac Péreire (1806-80), were well-known French financiers and bankers during the second empire, who encouraged the construction of the first railway in France in 1835. In 1852, they founded the Société Générale du Crédit Mobilier.