Birthday: January 4, 1809
French Inventors & Discoverers
Died At Age: 43
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Born in: Coupvray
Famous as: Inventor of Braille
father: Simon-René Braille
mother: Monique Braille
siblings: Monique Catherine Josephine Braille
Died on: January 6, 1852
place of death: Paris
Cause of Death: Tuberculosis
education: Institut National des Jeunes Aveugles, Royal Institution for Blind Youth
Louis Braille was a French educationist, who is regarded as one of the greatest contributors to the field of reading and writing systems for the visually impaired. Braille used to visit his father’s leather workshop and often worked with pieces of leather when he was a child; however, he injured his eyes in an accident when he was trying to pierce a piece of leather. The injury was the reason why he went blind at the age of five. His parents tried to give him a standard education and when he was grown up he was sent to Paris to study at the Royal Institute for Blind Youth. It was at the institute that Braille came into contact with a reading system for blind people and later on he met with Charles Barbier, who showed the reading system that he had invented on his own. It proved to be the inspiration for Braille to design his own reading system for blind people and the most important feature of his reading system was its simplicity as well as the fact that blind people could also write using his system. Although Braille’s system did not get enough recognition during his lifetime, it became the universal reading and writing system for blind people in the subsequent years.
Childhood & Early Life
Louis Braille was born on January 4, 1809 in Coupvray, France to Simon-Rene Braille and Monique Braille. His father Simon-Rene had a successful leather merchant and the family lived in a large house. He had three sisters.
Louis Braille was interested in his father’s leather business right from the time he was a child and often spent time at the workshop. When he was three years old, he had an accident while trying to penetrate a piece of leather with an awl as the awl slipped and struck his eye. The eye caught an infection and soon spread to the other eye. By the time he was five, Louis Braille had lost his eyesight entirely.
Braille’s parents encouraged him to lead a normal life and the child did show a willingness to learn despite his handicap. In 1819, Braille was sent to Paris to study at the Royal Institute for Blind Youth where he was to receive his education after being educated at a school in his naive Coupvray in his early years.
During his time at the Royal Institute for Blind Youth in Paris, Louis Braille was introduced to the ‘Hauy system’, a reading system developed by the founder of the institute Valentin Hauy. Braille was not convinced that it was the best possible reading system for blind people since it did not help the people with their writing.
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Louis Braille started working as a teacher at the Royal Institute for Blind Youth in Paris in 1826 and within seven years, he had become a professor at the same institute. Braille was a teacher of geometry, algebra and also history. Around the same time, Braille also developed into an enthusiastic cellist and organ player. His keen ear for good music was the primary reason why he was drawn to those instruments.
In 1821, Louis Braille came into contact with Charles Barbier who had devised a reading system for soldiers that could help them in communicating by running their figures over the impressions of the different letters and each letter used to be a combination of dots and dashes. This system gave Braille the idea that he could develop a system that could be beneficial for blind people for both reading and writing.
Louis Braille worked on his ideas to create his own reading system for some years and after working hard on it for close to eight years, his system of raised dots for different letters was officially published in 1829.
Eight years later, in 1837, the second edition was published and it was Braille who had designed the whole system from start to finish. It would go on to become the universal reading system for blind persons.
In 1839, Louis Braille published the book ‘New Method for Representing the Dots’ which was supposed to show a way in which blind persons could write that could be read by people who weren’t blind. The system was called decapoint. Braille’s reading and writing system was not implemented at the Royal Institute for Blind Youth but would gain popularity later on. Subsequently, his frail health and respiratory troubles meant that he did not produce much work of note in the autumn of his life. He gave up teaching at the age of 40.
Louis Braille’s greatest achievement in his life is without doubt his invention of the Braille reading and writing system for blind people that allowed millions of blind people from all across the world the opportunity to read, write and get a complete education.
Personal Life & Legacy
Louis Braille died on January 6, 1852 at the Royal Institution in Paris due to a respiratory illness. Many believed that he actually suffered from tuberculosis.
Louis Braille has been commemorated in coins, stamps and statues at different locations all over the world.