Louis Braille 



Louis Braille invented the raised dot system of reading and writing for the blind and visually impaired. This tactile method permits the specially trained user to pass their fingers over embossed dots and "decode" the corresponding letters or symbols. Blind people around the world still use the braille system today. The braille system has been adapted to most languages as well as math, music and even computer programming. 

Louis Braille was born in Coupvray, France, on January 4, 1809, the only child of Louis and Constance Braille. His father made leather saddles and harnesses for farmers in the area. At the age of three, while playing in his father's shop, young Louis was struck in the eye by an awl (a pointed tool for piercing holes in leather or wood). Within weeks of the accident, an eye infection took away his sight completely. Few opportunities existed for the blind at the time, so his father urged him to attend school with sighted children. He was an excellent student, mostly because of his exceptional memory.

In 1819 Braille received a scholarship to the Institut National des Jeunes Aveugles (National Institute of Blind Youth), founded by Valentin HaĆ¼y (1745–1822). He continued to excel in his studies and also began playing the piano and organ. The same year Braille entered the school, Captain Charles Barbier invented sonography, or night writing, a system of embossed symbols (standing out from the surface) used by soldiers to communicate silently at night on the battlefield. The fifteen-year-old Braille was inspired by a lecture Barbier gave at the Institute a few years later. Braille adapted Barbier's system to replace the awkward embossed-word books in the Institute's library, which were the only thing he and his classmates could use up to that point.