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PITMAN, (Sir) (Isaac) James

PITMAN, (Sir) (Isaac) James [1901–85]. English publisher and educational reformer, grandson of Isaac Pitman. He was born in London, and educated at Eton and Oxford, where he studied modern history. He played rugby for Oxford and for England, and was a noted boxer, runner, and skier. He joined his father Ernest and his uncle Alfred in the family business and was for a time headmaster of one of the Pitman's Colleges (in Maida Vale in the 1920s). He became chairman and managing director of Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons (c.1932), was Chairman of the Joint Examining Board (1935–50), a director of the Bank of England (1941–5), first Director of Organization and Method in the Civil Service (1943–5), President of the Society of Commercial Teachers (1951–5), and Conservative Member of Parliament for Bath (1945–64). In 1959, he published The Ehrhardt Augmented (40-sound 42-character) Lower-Case Roman Alphabet (in which Ehrhardt is the name of a typeface), which described a system that later became known as the INITIAL TEACHING ALPHABET, designed to help children learn to read more easily and successfully. Based on original work by his grandfather, it became a lifelong passion to whose promotion in the UK and elsewhere he contributed large sums of his own money, lobbying education ministers, school inspectors, and chief education officers, and attending conferences of teachers. His Initial Teaching Alphabet Foundation benefited from a large donation in the US, but disagreements led to litigation, and the movement lost momentum: ‘Most teachers continued to prefer books in ordinary type. They never wholly believed claims that there were no difficulties in transferring from i.t.a. to traditional orthography’ (Archibald Clark-Kennedy, obituary, The Times, 3 Sept. 1985). By the 1980s, the system had disappeared from most of the schools that had taken it up.

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