There are several posted questions regarding people who have had struggles, but ultimately were able to succeed, in academia while being blind.

My question is regarding being mute (by choice or otherwise): what are the difficulties in being successful? Are there notable examples of such people? I'm not mute myself, but I thought it was an interesting question for the following reasons.

I would think working in academia means coming up with new and interesting ideas through research, while also conveying these ideas and results in an effective manner to an audience, both through papers and giving talks. So success should be possible in some aspects of academia (such as papers), but not in others (such as giving talks).

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    "Is it possible.." is not a good question, as outline and special cases always exist. With work, talent, luck, patience etc someone can always succeed. And an obvious answer: Stephen Hawking
    – Greg
    Jul 23, 2015 at 22:49
  • @Greg good point, will re-phrase question. Jul 23, 2015 at 22:49
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    This question needs an answer by someone who has recent experience with voice synthesizers. I'd guess they have changed a lot. Jul 14, 2019 at 0:39

2 Answers 2


I'll open with the obvious answer:

Usually one of the main ways of getting people to know about your work is to give talks about it, in one for or another. It might be possible to mitigate the effect of not giving any talks yourself (eg. by having co-authors doing so, or having a very visible blog), but it would certainly mean taking an unusual approach, at least in my field.

  • I wonder if it would be a viable approach to give a talk in sign language with an interpreter translating to spoken language.
    – Philipp
    Jul 24, 2015 at 8:41
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    Or use a speech synthesiser like Stephen Hawking.
    – gerrit
    Jul 24, 2015 at 11:39
  • @gerrit: Yes, I would think that a talk delivered via speech synthesizer could actually work quite well. Perhaps accompanied by the presenter pointing out relevant things on the screen, so that they don't have to just stand there while the computer speaks. (Certainly I've attended talks that would have been much improved had they been delivered by a speech synthesizer.) Jul 24, 2015 at 19:33
  • Of course, it means more work ahead of time for the presenter (you have to write out your talk word-for-word, instead of just making notes and filling them in on the fly). But at least you will know you won't unexpectedly run out of time. Jul 24, 2015 at 19:36
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    @AnonymousPhysicist I don't equate citations with people knowing about your work.
    – Jessica B
    Jul 14, 2019 at 6:29

Jessica B answered about spreading research. I'm going to answer on teaching.

Most teaching activities are based on a teacher talking to the students, and being mute would be a serious handicap in this setting. However, there are a lot of online universities nowadays, where nearly all communication is in writing. In my experience in an online university, the only instances that involved speaking have been when meeting or phone calling other faculty, and those could have been easily solved by other means.

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