The James Holman Story
Brithish adventurer and writer James Holman
was a blind person that was known to utilize human echolocaiton.
The man was also known as the Blind Adventurer due to his travels, which he retold at great length in his writings. Holman was unique in that he wasn't just blind, but also suffered from pain so great that it stunted his mobility. Yet he journeyed countless places and overcame his disabilities by force of will.
The things the human body can be trained to do under the right circumstances are nothing short of amazing, and few things prove this fact more than human echolocation. Deprived of the ability to see through their eyes, many people have instead learned to perceive their surroundings by ear alone — a technique one might think would be unique to animals like bats or dolphins. While it might sound unlikely, stories of people who have taught themselves to sense objects and creatures in their environment using biological sonar are far from unheard of, with a number of famous blind people demonstrating that very ability.
This obviously isn't going to make anyone think you shouldn't Protect Your Eyesight but it still proves that even a major disability like blindness doesn't have to be fully crippling. The concept of a human being using the technique of echolocation did not start with Daredevil, nor is it a recent discovery.
James Holman was born in Exeter on October of 1786. In 1798, he volunteered to join the British Royal Navy, where he was eventually appointed lieutenant. However, in 1810, he contracted an illness that affected his joints and then later spread to his eyes, whereupon he was stricken with blindness.
Unable to see and in no condition to serve, he was invalidated from the Navy. Due to the fact that his illness was duty-related, he was appointed as one of the Military Knights of Windsor and allowed to live in Windsor Castle in exchange for attending two church services a day.
After a while, this quiet, routine new life of his began to wear on James Holman. He started becoming physically sick and asked for multiple leaves of absence, citing his deteriorating health as the reason.
So began his first journey, as he traveled to France, Italy, Switzerland and Germany. When he returned home, he published his first piece of writing; Narrative of a Journey through France. This alone didn't satisfy his thirst for travel, however, as he ventured out again to several other countries, logging and publishing his journeys each time — all while entirely blind.
The actual technique he employed was beautifully simple, considering how extraordinary human echolocation might sound to the average person. Using his cane, Holman would make a series of tapping noises. The sound produced would then bounce off various objects in his surroundings, and he would use the echoes to get a reading of what was in the area around him.
Modern practitioners of echolocation often use this same method, having trained themselves to identify objects based on how the echo is heard. One might recognize a car if the echo indicates an object that's larger in the middle than on either end, or a tree if the echo sounds as if it's bouncing off a tall, tapering structure.
Holman was one of the first known people to overcome his blindness with the “superpower” of echolocation, standing out in a time when the blind were thought to be needy beyond repair.
Others that have used echolocation are Ben Underwood and Daniel Kish.
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James Holman to Facts About Eyesight
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