Surname also spelled Shirreff, Sherriff, and Sheriff. May have been born in Edinburgh, Scotland; first deaf pupil of Thomas Braidwood (q.v.); left Braidwood's academy at age 18 to go to the Royal Academy Schools to study art 1769-1772, and was modestly successful as a portraitist. Resident of Bath, England, but also lived in Madras and Calcutta in India 1797-1809, where he worked on a book called Illustrations of Signs. Unfortunately lost before publication, this would have been the first sign language dictionary. Returned to London and painted for several more years before retiring to Bath, where he died. Written about by Lord Monboddo in Of the Origin and Progress of Language (1774).
Deaf Lives, p.167; The Conquest of Deafness, p.110, 112; Dictionary of Painters of Miniatures, p.273; Britain's Deaf Heritage, p.23; English Portrait Miniatures, p.146.