Louis Braille

Portrait of Louis Braille

Louis Braille was born in Coupvray, in the south of France on 4 January, 1809, and lost his sight at the age of four. Louis was the son of a harness maker and pierced his eye while playing with a sharp tool in his father's workshop.

The local parish priest observed that Louis had a commendable memory and a quick mind. He persuaded the local schoolmaster to allow Louis to sit in on classes normally run for children of higher class and means than Louis. The schoolmaster was also impressed with Louis' learning, but the problem remained that he could not adequately be tested because he could not read or write.

When Louis was 10 he attended the National Institute for the Blind in Paris, France. At the time it was the world's first school for blind male children. Here he became very good at maths and science. He also learnt to play the organ.

Louis felt that there must be a way for people who are blind to read and write. For years he worked on developing a system. Before he was 20 he had invented braille - a system that uses a combination of six raised dots to make letters, words and numbers.

Louis did not leave the institute where he had been taught, but became a teacher and passed on his new reading and writing system to other students.

The braille system was exhibited at the World Exhibition in Germany in 1851, where it was well received. It was not widely used until 1918, 56 years after Louis death in 1852.

Braille is now taught throughout the world to adults and children. It has also been adapted by many countries to suit their native language(s).

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