LOUIS BRAILLE BIOGRAPHY
BIRTH : January 4, 1809
DEATH : January 6, 1852 (aged 43)
Louis Braille was a French educator and an inventor, who developed a system of printing and writing, called ‘Braille’. It was made to be used by the blind, and this method is still being used today
Louis Braille was born on January 4, 1809, in Coupvray, France to Simon-René Braille and Monique Braille. His father owned a leather business. He had three siblings. From a very young age, Braille took an interest in his father’s shop and used to spend most of his time there. One day, he neglected his father’s advice and touched his tools when his father was not in the shop. Louis tried to punch a hole in a piece of leather with an awl, which is a sharp, pointed tool. But the tool slipped from his hand and struck him in the eye. The resultant infection spread to his other eye as well. At the age of five, Louis Braille lost his eyesight entirely. From that point on, he tried to help others like him.
There was no support system for blind people at the time. Most of the time, the blind were forced to become beggars to earn a living. But his parents wanted Braille to continue his studies and have a better future. He went to the local village for his education, where he was taught by the priest. It was difficult for Braille to read or write properly but he still excelled in his studies. The priest at his school suggested that braille be enrolled into a school for the blind for a better future. In 1819, he was sent to attend the only blind school in Paris called the Royal Institute for Blind Youth. He learned to play the cello and the piano there. At school, all the students were taught by the ‘Hauy system’, a reading system developed by Valentin Hauy. But, the books and the information available to them were limited, and it was hard for students like Braille to learn how to write. The books that were accessible to them were very heavy and took a long time to read.
The inspiration for the Braille system came to Braille in 1821. A French soldier, Charles Barbier, visited his school and introduced a new method that he called ‘night writing! It involved using twelve raised dots, which were connected, to describe different sounds. It was developed to be used by soldiers to pass instructions at night, without the need to talk or use light. Barbier thought he could help blind students with this method, but even soldiers found it difficult to use. The Royal Institute’s students tried to use
night writing, but for them, too, the method was hard to follow. However, Braille took an interest
in Barbier’s invention and learned the system on his own. He worked for months to make the system easier. He added mathematical and music codes to it, and finally, he formed a new code. It was easier to read and learn.
Braille went to the director of his school and showed him his new system which could help blind students. In 1829, Braille published the Method of Writing Words, Music and Plain Song by Means of Dots, for use by the Blind and Arranged for Them. People loved the effectiveness of the Braille system. The advantage was that blind people could write by using a simple tool with the help of dots. This helped them to learn and gather knowledge. Braille became a teacher at his school and taught geometry, algebra and history. The students loved him as a teacher. He also created a code for musical notes. Children learned how to read and write music with the help of codes.
Another invention by Braille was the ‘Deca- point’ or ‘Raphigraphy’, which was a language writing system for the blind that could also be read by the sighted. He tried inventing the typewriting machine that wrote Raphigraphy. Braille didn’t live to see the worldwide popularity of his system, and his great contribution to society. He suffered from poor health most of his life. He had tuberculosis.
At the time, effective medicines were not available to treat the disease. He died in 1852, at the age of 43.
After his death, the popularity of the Braille system appealed to the French government. The government made Braille’s dot alphabet the official method for blind people to read and write. It was officially called Braille, named after its inventor. By 1990, with the help of the United Nations, the Braille system was adapted to every known language. In 1952, Louis Braille’s grave was moved to Paris and he was buried in
the Pantheon, where eminent French achievers are buried.