The Louis Braille Story
Louis Braille, who developed a system to allow blind people to read took great strides to make the lives of the blind more convenient
It's important to Protect Your Eyesight, because sight is one of our most important senses. It allows us to navigate and understand the world around us in a way that can't easily be replaced by smell or hearing. This is why blindness is often considered one of the most damaging disabilities one could have. Without the ability to see, suddenly a large number of possibilities seem out of reach.
Louis Braille was born in a small French town on January 4, 1809. His father made a living crafting saddles, bags, leather straps and harnesses, and Louis loved to spend time in the workshop. When he was three years old, he was using a pruning knife to make holes in a piece of leather. The instrument was too heavy for him, and he ended up scratching one of his eyes.
At the time, there wasn't any form of treatment available to heal the injury, so all that could be done was to patch and bind the eye. Without proper treatment, the injury soon became infected. The infection spread to Louis' other eye, rendering him fully blind — whereupon he was enrolled in Paris' National Institute for Blind Youth.
Despite the terrible living conditions of the school, Louis excelled academically, honing his musical skills and eventually becoming a talented cellist and organist.
He read all three of the school's textbooks, which employed use of raised letters — however, he found the system inefficient because of the weight of the books and the disadvantage of not teaching students how to write.
When a retired French Army captain by the name of Charles Barbier visited the school, he showed the students his own reading system called “night writing”, which consisted of a series of raised dots and dashes that allowed soldiers to covertly communicate.
Louis Braille found the system too complex, but was inspired to develop a similar system of his own. From this, he began developing braille, using the same pruning knife that took his eyes to create his “alphabet” of dots. He finally completed his project at the age of 15 in 1824.
It was much simpler than the night writing system because it used fewer dots, allowing the reader to interpret letters with only one fingertip rather than having to reposition the hand. The dots were purposefully arranged into simple patterns so as to make the system easy to use.
The braille technique effectively supplanted the original raised letter system that had been used in Louis' school. The latter was made with copper wire letters, making mass-production difficult. By contrast, Louis' text was only slightly raised.
It was also much lighter; making it so more books could easily be printed. He eventually adapted braille for musical and mathematical use, and developed the braille typewriter in order to further expand the system's usability.
Braille is still used in the modern day, indicating just how effective it is as a way for the blind to read and write, and is just one example of how people can think outside the box in order to get around seemingly hopeless issues.
You should also read about William Moon.
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