Louis Braille Struck By An Awl

January 24, 2012 by staff 

Louis Braille Struck By An Awl, Louis Braill (4 January 1809 – 6 January 1852) was the inventor of braille,a a system of reading and writing used by people who are blind or visually impaired. As a small child, Braille was blinded in an accident; as a boy he developed a mastery over that blindness; and as a young man – still a student at school – he created a revolutionary form of communication that transcended blindness and transformed the lives of millions. After two centuries, the braille system remains an invaluable tool of learning and communication for the blind, and it has been adapted for languages worldwide.
Braille was born in Coupvray, France, a small town located southeast of Paris. He and his three elder siblings – Monique Catherine Josephine Braille (b.1793), Louis-Simon Braille (b.1795), and Marie Celine Braille (b.1797) – lived with their mother, Monique, and father, Simon-RenĂ©, on three hectares of land and vineyards in the countryside. Simon-RenĂ© maintained a successful enterprise as a leatherer and maker of horse tack.

As soon as he could walk, Louis spent time playing in his father’s workshop. At the age of three, the child was toying with some of the tools, trying to make holes in a piece of leather with an awl. Squinting closely at the surface, he pressed down hard to drive the point in, and the awl glanced across the tough leather and struck him in one of his eyes. A local physician bound and patched the affected eye and even arranged for Louis to be met the next day in Paris by a highly-respected surgeon, but no treatment could save the damaged organ. In agony, the young boy suffered for weeks as the wound became severely infected and spread to his other eye.b

Braille survived the torment of the infection but by the age of five he was completely blind in both eyes. His devoted parents made great efforts – quite uncommon for the era – to raise their youngest child in a normal fashion, and Louis prospered in their care. He learned to navigate the village and country paths with canes his father hewed for him, and he grew up seemingly at peace with his disability. His bright and creative mind impressed the local teachers and priests, and he was encouraged to seek higher education.

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