ASL has developed over time and was influenced by the Deaf culture in Europe. Middlebury College created a full timeline of its history, but here is a brief timeline of its history:

1520-1584: Pedro Ponce de Léon created a system of gestures to aid in the education of the deaf, working mainly with the de Velasco family of Spain.

1579-1629: De Léon's system was falsely credited to Juan Pablo Martin Bonet, who is often thought to be the father of sign language.

Gallaudet and Ponce de Lé

Thomas Gallaudet and Pedro Ponce de Léon

1680: George Dalgreno developed a manual alphabet called the Didascalocophus. Dalgreno's alphabet required two hands and assigned each letter a spot on the fingers or palm of the right hand, which were pointed to by the left index finger or thumb.

1715-1780: Jacob Rodriguez Pereira is credited with spreading de Léon's alphabet across Europe, adapting it slightly to incorporate thirty handshapes which corresponded to sounds.

Late 1700s: Up to this point in history, any attempts to educate the deaf were done on a small, private scale — both de Léon and Pereira instructed children of noble families (where recessive genes tended to appear). This tendency changed with the creation of a National Institution for Deaf-Mutes in France, one of the first schools to attempt instruction of the deaf. Abbé de l'Epée, the institute's founder, thought that the simple series of handshapes already in common use by the deaf (known as Old French Sign Language, or OFSL) could be modified to use correct French grammar. L'Epée advocated the usage of affixes and created a system that essentially reproduced spoken French with the hands.

1815: Thomas Gallaudet, an American, went to France with the hopes of learning a method of teaching deaf children. He studied at the National Institute for Deaf-Mutes under Laurent Clerc.

1817: Clerc and Gallaudet founded the Connecticut Asylum for the Education and Instruction of Deaf and Dumb Persons in West Hartford, Connecticut (now known as the American School of the Deaf). This was the first permanent public American school for the deaf. Clerc was America's first deaf teacher of the deaf and helped tranform OFSL into American Sign Language. (Sixty percent of ASL signs come from OFSL).

1853: The New England Gallaudet Association of the Deaf was founded to address concerns of education of deaf children, discrimination and a general lack of public understanding about deafness.

1864: The National Deaf-Mute College (now Gallaudet University) was founded by Gallaudet's son Edward, who was fluent in ASL as well as English.

Early 1890s: Paul D. Hubbard, Gallaudet's quarterback, invented the modern-day "huddle" to prevent the opposing side from seeing his team's signs and reading their plays. This huddle is now used universally in American football and other sports.

Gaullaudet University

1960s: Total Communication, the idea that deaf students can learn from a combination of sign language and oral methods (speech and lip-reading) emerged and was embraced as a new philosophy of teaching.

1967: The National Theatre of the Deaf was founded. Performances include both speaking and signing actors, who work together to perform for mixed deaf and hearing audiences.

1980: Closed Captioning was available for the first time on television.