He Invented Braille for The Blind

Louis Braille

Blind from age three, Louis Braille learned to read at a school for the blind in Paris where, at that time, books for the blind could weigh as much as a hundred pounds! Inspired by the indented dots on dice, he invented the Braille system of reading and writing, now available in every language in the world.

In 1812, a three-year-old boy was playing in his father’s leather workshop in Coupvray, France when he had an accident that would change the world. Louis Braille accidentally poked himself in the eye with an awl: The metal point blinded him in one eye and an infection soon left him totally blind.

Louis was a bright boy and won a scholarship to a school for the blind in Paris. It was not a particularly nice place; students were often fed bread and water and locked up for punishment. Louis and the other blind children were taught various skills (Louis became expert at playing the organ and cello), and they were taught to read. At that time, books for the blind used raised letters with metal wires under the paper, and some of the books weighed one hundred pounds!

One day, a soldier visited the school and talked about a code system that he had invented in the French army. It used raised dots and dashes on a piece of paper to allow soldiers to send each other messages in the dark while remaining silent.

Louis and the other children found the system too confusing, but the basic idea stuck in the boy’s head. He began experimenting with different ways of creating a language using raised dots on paper—and for this, he used the same awl that had blinded him!

One day, Louis Braille happened to pick up a pair of dice and feel the six dots on one side. That’s when inspiration struck him. He soon developed a code for each letter of the alphabet, with numbers and symbols like periods and question marks, all using no more than six dots.

One great advantage of his system was that you could read each letter or symbol using the tip of your finger. With practice, a reader could run his finger along a line and read very quickly. The other big plus was that blind people using Braille’s system could write as well as read. His system opened up a whole new world!

It took many years for the Braille system to take off, and its popularity was still spreading when Louis died in 1852. Not many people can say that they invented an entire new system of reading and writing, but Louis Braille did. What’s more, his system was adopted around the world, and today is available in virtually every language that humans speak.

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This is an excerpt from the book Inspiration to Live Your MAGIC!™, 75 Inspiring Biographies by Larry Anderson. It is available as a print book from Amazon.com and as a Kindle e-book.

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