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Carl Oscar Malm

Carl Oscar Malm was born in Eura, SW Finland, on 12 February 1826. The next year, the Malm family moved to Askola, in southern Finland, where Carl Oscar spent his early childhood. His father, Anders Gustaf Malm, was a civil servant who worked in the nearby town of Porvoo. Carl Oscar's mother, Katarina Juliana, was born Tandefelt. She died in 1838 and A.G. Malm remarried. The new wife was Christina Emerentia af Enehjelm. Carl Oscar had a brother, Gustaf Emil, who was two years his senior, and a little sister, who died at the age of two.

The reason for Carl Oscar's deafness is not certain. Some say that it was a result of scabies, which Carl Oscar caught from his wet nurse. During the illness, the boy's ears had been bleeding, and this was thought to have caused his deafness. A variety of methods had been used to try to cure it, including the application of electric current by a doctor in Stockholm, but without result.

Malm's father was socially active and appreciative of education. In the father's opinion, Carl Oscar had a "quick grasp and comprehension." As a result, the boy was taught letters and numbers at home, which was uncommon in those days, especially in the case of a deaf child. Malm's parents found out about a school for the deaf in Stockholm and decided to send their son there.

In 1834, the eight-year-old Malm began studies in the Manilla School in Stockholm as a private student of the deaf teacher Gerhard Holtz. Under the teaching of Holtz, Carl Oscar learnt the sign language used in the school and the Swedish language. In 1840, he became a regular student at the school. Malm's final school report in 1845 stated:

"...he has acquired an exceptional proficiency in Swedish language comprehension and writing, taken fairly comprehensive courses in Swedish history and geography and in general sciences, especially astronomy, taken in the main points in general history and geography, and also studied arithmetic and simple geometry."

Malm also received vocational training in carpentry and was given excellent marks in it. He dreamt about teaching career. In a public examination, Malm wrote on two topics selected by members of the audience, namely the accomplishments of the reign of king Gustavus I and education. A Swedish newspaper wrote of Malm's performance: "This exceptionally talented and knowledgeable student discussed the two topics in a brilliant manner."

Upon his return to Porvoo in 1845 Malm amazed the local society with his knowledge of languages: besides sign language and Swedish, he knew Finnish, German, French, and English. He had an active social life in Porvoo. He used a pencil and paper to carry on discussions. In Malm's company, Porvoo circles used a rudimentary sign language, because some of his acquaintances knew at least a few individual signs.

Malm was interested in chess, swimming and joinery. He produced plans for things such as a steerable balloon, which however never materialised. He also loved astronomy and other branches of science. Malm was also socially conscious and progressive. Many of his social initiatives dealt with teaching and education.

Upon finishing school Malm worked as a private tutor of two deaf boys. In 1846, he established a private school for the deaf in Porvoo. In the school, Malm gave instruction in the sign language he had learnt at the Manilla School. His objective was that the student should learn both sign language and written language at the same time.

Malm worked as a teacher in Porvoo for over ten years. During that time, he endeavoured to get the government to take responsibility for instruction of the deaf. This goal was achieved in 1858 when an imperial decree was issued for the establishment of a school for the deaf in Turku, SW Finland. Because of his deafness, Malm was not appointed director of the school but he was chosen as a teacher without a separate application.

In his school inauguration speech, Malm said that he was happy because he had been allowed to prepare the way for the education of the deaf-mute, "though such efforts were only the result of God's will" and he himself was merely "a humble tool."

Malm's career in the Turku School for the Deaf was short. He died of pneumonia on 8 June 1863 at the early age of 37. A story is told in the deaf community that Malm had helped a horse that had fallen into a river. He became ill as a result, and died shortly thereafter. Malm was buried in Turku


Objects in the Carl Oscar Malm's museum room

Objects that have belonged to Carl Oscar Malm were donated to the museum by following persons: Teacher Fritz Hirn and mrs. Maria Hirn, Malm's foster-sister Ch. Eskelin and miss Lindfors.

On the left:
A house where Malm's first school was situated at Kankurinkuja, in Porvoo. Oilpainting by a deaf artist Sävele Angervo. 1913.

Above the desk:
C.O. Malm's stepmother Christina Emerentia Malm and father Anders Gustaf Malm. Charcoal drawings by Sävele Angervo 1915.

On the desk:
Photograph of C.O. Malm's brother Gustaf Emil Malm.
"Lord's prayer" written by Malm. Orginally Malm has given this little framed writing to his pupil Maria Klingenberg (later Hirn).
Portrait of Carl Oscar Malm. Drawing by A. Tholander 1860.

Above the bed:
Manilla Institute

On the right:
A wooden trunk which C.O. Malm has made himself in the Manilla Institute.
Two chairs. It is told that the first pupils of Malm sat on these two chairs.