RIP – JAMES MARSTERS


EXPIRED: 07/28/09 – James Marsters, 85, couldn’t hear, but lied about it so he could get into dental school. Later in life he linked a teletypewriter to a phone & opened up new worlds for the deaf, converting audio tones into written messages.


Marsters was a California orthodontist who was instrumental in the development of text telephones (TTYs). Starting in 1964, he worked with two other deaf men, Robert Weitbrecht and Andrew Saks, to advocate for changes that would allow deaf persons to communicate with TTYs from home and work. Before that, deaf persons were limited to communication in person, by letters or by phone with the help of hearing friends or family members.

Weitbrecht made history by calling Marsters with the first long distance TTY phone call on a traditional telephone line. Their typed words were clear and concise: “Are you printing me now?” Weitbrecht asked Marsters. “Let’s quit for now and gloat over the success.”

They founded a company that obtained discarded teletype machines, repaired them and gave them to deaf people to use with the acoustic modems. Thick telephone directories of TTY users were eventually published, liberating deaf persons, allowing them for the first time to independently communicate with others in different locations.

Born in Norwich, New York, Marsters became deaf as an infant. He applied to dental schools but was repeatedly told a deaf person could not become a dentist. Undaunted after three years, he was eventually admitted to New York University College of Dentistry on a provisional basis with the understanding they would provide no special accommodations. He graduated with a DDS degree in 1952, becoming one of the first deaf dentists in the country.

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