The history of Braille • Ophtalmologie Express

From the 17th century we learned that the sense of touch for the blind and visually impaired would be used to teach them to read. The idea came from the Italian Jesuit Francesco Lana de Terzi and his eponymous system in 1670. Using the Lana system we have lines and dots on thick paper according to a specific three by three grid. It is therefore enough to learn this grid to use this writing system.

In the following century, Valentin Haüy decided to create different typefaces for blind and visually impaired people. His invention ? create special characters in relief so that the person can touch and read with their fingers. In 1785, Valentin Haüy opened the National Institute for Young Blind People in Paris, which still exists and continues to spread braille in France.

At the age of 3, Louis Braille loses his eye while playing with a tool, the other eye is infected which also causes his loss. Despite his severe handicap, Louis’ parents wanted to give him a good education. Therefore, he attended the village primary school curriculum.

In 1819, at the age of 10, Louis Braille joined the Royal Institution for Young Blind People. Louis was so talented as a student that at 19 he joined the teaching staff. He was also very good at music.

Blind students learn to read and write with raised Roman characters. Roman characters are difficult to recognize by touch, so reading is very slow. In 1821, Louis Braille and his classmates tried a code called “sonography,” a system that used 12 raised dots to represent sounds.

Following several attempts, many drawbacks appear, the writing of Captain Barbier, from which Louis Braille was inspired, is not identical and does not respect French spelling. It also makes it impossible to understand punctuation marks, numbers or even musical notes.

In 1825, he presented the first version of his system to the director of the institute. Two years later, a transcription experiment was attempted, the result was decisive and in 1829.

The Braille method therefore makes it possible to:

  • full alphabet transcription
  • the punctuation
  • numbers
  • mathematical symbols
  • the music


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