Basic Science

How braille was invented?

How braille was invented?

Do you know there are some people who have mastered the art of navigating in darkness. And they are also trained to read and write in the dark. These mighty people are the blind. And they do this with the unique writing system called Braille.

The history of this unique writing system goes all the way back to the early 1800s. It’s the middle of the Napoleonic wars in the middle of Europe and it’s the middle of the night. Several soldiers in the french army were using lamps to read the combat messages, which was a terrible decision because by this the position of the french soldiers were detected by their enemies. A man named Charles Barbier saw this problem and developed a night writing system for the soldiers.  It was a system with twelve raised dots in a cell. In a moment of vision Barbier pokes a series of holes into a sheet of paper with his blade creating coded messages that can be deciphered by fingertip even in the dark. And it helped the soldiers read without attracting any unwanted attention. The merits of his so called night writing were never acknowledged by the military. But in 1821, Barbier approached the Royal Institute for Blind Youth in Paris in the hope that they would find a use for his innovative, new communication method. However there was flaw in this language system.  It was just impossible to feel all the dot with a single touch. Still it was enough to inspire one student, a curious little boy named Louis Braille.

Louis was not born blind, instead he lost his eyes when he was three years old in an accident. But this physical disability was no bar for Braille’s bright spirit. He continued his struggle to learn by listening alone. Luckily his hard work paid off and he earned a scholarship to the Royal institute for Blind Youth, when he was just ten years old but even at school Louis education was difficult. Louis felt there need to be a better way. He spend the next several years improving on Charles Barbier’s night writing system for his fellow blind individuals. Louis built a sytem on Barbier’s principles designing a way for the blind to read quickly using their sense of touch as their finger passed across a page by creating an organised alphabet fitting into a six dot standardised cell. Today this system is known as braille. Soon enough the hard work of this little genius bore fruit. Braille simplified the night writing system. Now that was the big improvement because it made the reading for the blind much easier and faster. For the next 5 years, Braille refined the writing method which was already in use. In 1829, Braille published a book, explaining the entire braille codes. By the time, he had invented this system, he was only 15 years old. After graduating from the institute he returned to teach. Despite the great advantage of it, his own university refused to adopt that system. But there was no such thing that could stop him. He soon started spreading braille among the students after being appointed as a teacher. This brave move by Louis helped the students immensely and in 1859, two years after Louis’s death, the rising demand from the students made the university adopt the braille writing system. That forced the french government to recognise the braille officially.

Since then the braille writing system has spread throughout the world and people has taken steps to incorporate the braille system in their language. Today Braille is the universal accepted system of writing for the blind that has been used for more than 130 languages and is giving vision to the blind in the form of literacy.

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Shreya Sharma

Hi, this is shreya sharma, an ambivert, creative and fun loving girl whose hobby switches between writing and crafting. She is Economics graduate from kalindi college, Delhi university.

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