His blindness opened millions of “eyes.” As a brilliant student at the National Institute for Blind Youth in Paris, he invented a writing system that opened up the entire world of letters to the blind, and so we celebrate
NATIONAL BRAILLE DAY!
Louis Braille was born in the village of Coupvray, France, and blinded by an eye infection as a toddler, the result of a freak accident in his father’s leather craft workshop.
He learned all he could, but was unhappy with the Haüy system of reading for the blind, a method involving large raised letters on thick, embossed paper over which blind students would trace the letters with their hands. Because of its size, the information it conveyed was limited, and blind students still could not “write” except by a laborious process that was challenging even for the sighted. Brilliant minds were being wasted.
Enter Louis Braille, as brilliant and curious a student as there was, and by the age of 15 he had formulated a system of raised dots that could be read swiftly by the touch of one finger. Ironically, Louis created his first Braille Alphabet with an awl, the same tool that had blinded him as a toddler.
He was also a talented musician, and created a Braille system for musical notation. A mental giant who battled physical ailments his entire life, Louis Braille died on this day in 1852 at only age 43, having led a fuller life than men twice his age, leaving behind a permanent window to the world of knowledge for his blind brothers and sisters.
•Suggested Activities: Not complaining about your eyeglasses.