Thursday, January 10, 2013
"If you knew how much work went to it you wouldn’t call it genius."
Braille was 10 years old when he was sent to a special boarding school for the blind. He was both intelligent and creative and wasn't going to let his disability slow him down. The books for the blinds had large letters that were raised up off the page. Since the letters were so big, the books themselves were large and bulky. It took him a long time to read a sentence. By the time he reached the end of a sentence, he almost forgot what the beginning of the sentence was about. Louis knew there must be a better way.
By the time Louis Braille was 12, something important happened. A soldier visited the school and showed children the military code called "night writing" which was used by soldiers to communicate after dark. It was based on dots system. Each dot or combination of dots stood for a letter or a phonetic sound. This was a very complicated system, but it inspired Louis Braille to develop a six-dot system for the blind.
On his next vacation home, he sat in his father's leather shop and picked up one of his father's blunt awls. The idea came to him in a flash. Louis used the blunt awl to punch out a sentence using dots. He read it quickly from left to right. Everything made sense. It worked.
He worked on this system of six raised dots in different combinations, each combination corresponding to a letter of the alphabet. Because there were fewer dots, they could be "read" with one finger-tip. Soon the benefits of the new system were realized. Today, Braille is used in almost every country in the world.
It is not an exaggeration to say that Braille is one of the most important innovations in history. True it does not affect the majority of people; it is a vital link to the outside world.