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The Blinding Light, Louis Braille

Louis Braille was a French schoolteacher who devised the Braille system of printing and writing, which is widely used by the blind. He was born on January 4, 1809, in Coupvray, France, and died on January 6, 1852, in Paris.

Braille was blinded as a child in an accident while playing with tools in his father’s harness shop when he was three years old. His right eye was pierced by an instrument that slipped. Total blindness and sympathetic ophthalmia followed. Despite this, he went on to become a well-known musician and organist. He travelled to the National Institute for Blind Children in Paris in 1819 after earning a scholarship, and he taught there until 1826.

Braille was intrigued by a form of writing presented at the school by Charles Barbier, in which a message was embossed on cardboard using dots to represent phonetic sounds.

He wrote an adaption for the blind when he was 15 years old, using a rudimentary instrument. Later, he extended this approach to musical notation, which consists of a six-dot code in various permutations. In 1829, he released a treatise on his type system, and in 1837, a three-volume Braille edition of a popular history textbook.

Many at the school thought Barbier’s system was promising, but he also saw its flaws. It was difficult to learn because it was focused on sounds rather than letters. Braille worked on a considerably simpler basis for three years, from the age of 12 to 15. Only six dots were used in his scheme, three in each of two columns. With a total of 64 symbols, he allocated various combinations of dots to letters and punctuation signs.

Method of Writing Words, Music, and Plain Songs by Dots for Use by the Blind and Arranged for Them was published in 1829 by Braille.

Braille suffered from TB in the last years of his life. Braille’s remains were brought to Paris for burial in the Panthéon a century after his death (except his hands, which remained in his birthplace of Coupvray).

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