Louis Braille biography

Louis Braille


The credit of providing sight to the sightless in the dark goes to a Frenchman called Louis Braille. He invented the Braille system of reading for the blind and opened a whole new world of knowledge for the blind to explore. Braille’s system became so much a part of education for the blind that as far back as 1895 the inventor's very name was spelt as a common noun.
Today even the Chinese use the system. A number of magazines are published every month in Braille. But Braille’s own initiation in the work for the blind stems from a story that is heartrending in itself.
A son of a saddle maker, Louis Braille was a little boy with sparkling eyes. Often, he would play besides his working father. In the year ‘1812, tragedy struck. One day playfully clutching two sharp awls, Louis ran out of the shop. He stumbled and fell. Louis lost one eye in the accident and soon became totally blind.
Dependent now on the cane Louis’s life no doubt must have been one of severe dejection and frustrations. The villagers of the little village were by the number of tapping of his Cane know where he was headed to. This method of tapping was ingeniously implemented by Braille in the system of reading for the blind that he was to invent later on. This system was called by Braille the system of "frozen taps.”
Louis attended the Institution Nationale des Jeunes Aveugles, a school for the blind in Paris at the age of ten. Here Louis was taught the alphabet by Valentine Hauy. Hauy patiently guided Louis’ fingers along the twenty six letters of the alphabet that were made from twigs. From these Louis soon learnt to read books that were made up of letters out of cloth and pasted on pages. Each letter was three inches in height and two inches wide. A fable narrated in this fashion would on an average take up seven thick books each weighing about eight pounds. Soon the book was improvised and embossed letters helped the pupils to read. But this too was a daunting task for the letters had to be at least an inch high for the pupils to get a proper feel. Louis, so eager to learn had to wait patiently to read all that his heart desired.
Louis' desire was to unleash the world of books to the blind that were so utterly lonely. He spent a lot of his time trying to devise a code with symbols for words and phrases. He tried codes based on triangles, squares and circles, each bearing variations representing different letters, but none of them worked out.
Louis soon took up a post of a teacher at the Institution Nationale des Jeunes Aveugles. One day sitting in a cafe listening to the news being read out by his friend he heard about an army officer who had developed a system of writing in raised dots and dashes, to be used in the darkness. The message could be read by touch without the need for striking light. Louis exited at this new breakthrough that could perhaps, open a whole new world of experience. Braille thrilled said,” . . . l have solved the impenetrable problem of the blind-broken their age long death like trance.’
Braille worked out the concepts of the system that was to tighten the dark recesses of the mind of the blind with the light of the written word. With an all the impressions were punched into the thick black paper so that small protuberances could be felt on the other side. A simple army code had been set up: one dot might mean “advance”, two dots “retreat”, and so on.
Braille decided to try and build a code for the entire language. Enthralled with the new possibilities that the new system had opened Braille said to the Captain, “Let me be the world's first blind to thank you."
For five years Braille worked tirelessly trying to perfect the system by which the blind could read. It was ironical that the same instrument that had blinded him was responsible in developing the system. Using a key of six holes in an oblong, Braille developed sixty three possible combinations which besides the alphabet, supplied symbols for punctuation, contractions and short words like “and” and "for,"
Braille paid homage to the great blind poet John Milton when he prepared sections of the poet's work in his system. He said, 'It is fitting that | draw upon the sightless poet for the first adaptation.' But strangely enough Braille had to face a lot of hurdles before his system finally received acceptance. Although he could “punch-write” almost as fast as anyone could dictate to him he was labeled as a cheat by jealous colleagues. They accused him of memorizing the passages he chose to demonstrate. Braille appealed to the French Academy to accept this system but he was turned down ungraciously for the authorities felt that the blind received adequate training under the prevailing embossing system. But Braille received support from the students whom he trained secretly to use the system. Apart from the language he taught them to punch out mathematical symbols and solve equations. He also worked out a Braille musical code and became a skilled organist.
Braille’s health had been frail throughout his life. It was not until his last illness that his system gained acceptant. A student of his giving a piano recital tapped her way to the lip of the stage. On receiving a hearty applause, addressing the audience she said, your applause is not for me. It belongs to a man who is dying ..." She then told the public about the educative and useful Braille method that had introduced ablind girl likes her to the magic of music. She narrated how itwas the jealousies of the older colleagues that had kept the W system closeted and was thereby denying horizon to millions of deaf all over the world. The crowd charged with emotiondemanded acceptance of the Braille’s system and the newsmade headlines.
Louis Braille was on his deathbed when the news of his success carne to him. He was beside himself with joy and through tears streaming down his face he said, “This is the third time in my life I have permitted myself to weep. First when | was blinded. Second, when l heard about the ‘night writing, and now because I know that my life is not a failure.'
On his death a bust of Braille’s was erected outside the saddler's shop at Coupvray. The bust is endowed with the most compassionate eyes. A tribute by the artist to the man who lit up many a darkened soul. But, perhaps the best tribute came from his pupil who said, “He has not only given the blind of the world windows, but he has given them music to weep by."

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