Louis Braille

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Louis was born in Coupvray, France, on January 4, 1809, the son of a saddler. He became blind in one eye following an injury from one of his fathe's awls at the age of 3 and shortly after lost the sight of the other eye from sympathetic ophthalmia. He won a scholarship to the the National Institute for the Blind in Paris, (the first such school in the world [1] albeit somewhat Dickensian). The curriculum was designed to teach physical and musical skills and Braille became an expert organist. He was taught to read using a system of bent copper wire letters under paper invented by the school's founder Valentin Haüy

The 1821 the school was visited by Charles Barbier a French Army officer who had responded to Napoleon's order for a communication system for use by soldiers at night without sound or light by inventing "Night writing" based on a 6 x 6 square grid. Braille was fascinated but felt it too complex for use by the blind. (Soldiers agreed). [2]. Within a short time Braille developed a system of six dots per letter[3] [4]. This was easier to read [5]. Unfortunately the French Institute did not like it either and it was not till the Englishman Thomas Armitage asked blind people what they preferred did the system catch on.

Braille died of tuberculosis on 6 January 1852, just two days after his 43rd birthday. On the centenary of his death the French Government moved his remains to the Pantheon in Paris where France's heroes are buried [6] .


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