Invention of Braille script

Updated: Sep 16, 2020

Mom : Hey! Saaransh, are you ready to hear one more story of kid inventor?

Saaransh : Yay! Has one more kid invented another delicious food item accidently?

Mom : Ha Ha .. this kid invented out of his need. 

Saaransh : Out of need? 

Mom : Yes, here it literally proves, Necessity is the mother of Invention.

Saaransh : Now I am curious to know his problem and how he found solution to it.

Mom : A very inspiring story. 

This story dates back in 19th century. During Napoleonic wars, an Artillery officer of Napoleon Bonaparte named Charles Barbier witnessed that despite being slain on battlefield by day many soldiers were killed at night. The reason behind this was the lamp used by soldiers after dark to read combat messages. These lit lamps proved fatal to the soldiers as these would help to locate French soldiers by waiting enemy snipers. To avoid this human loss Charles Barbier developed a unique system known as night writing. Night writing included 12 embossed dots. The system by which the message could be read by touch adaptable in the conditions of total darkness. But army did not find this system quite useful so they discarded it.

Saaransh : What difficulty did they face in adapting in army?

Mom : In this system soldiers were expected to touch the raised dots and guess the message with phonetics. This was time consuming and sometimes varied as per individual discretion.

The night writing system was further introduced to the blind students to help them read.

But the credit of modifying night writing system to today's Braille system adaptable to blind people goes to the then young boy of 15 years from a village Coupvray, France. A super hero - Mr. Louis Braille.

Louis was the youngest child in the house. He was very intelligent and creative kid. He started visiting his father’s workshop of making saddles for horses by the age of 3 years. One day in the workshop he was trying to punch holes in the leather with the sharp awl. But the awl slipped and went right into his eye. His eye got infected, even though treated with best available medical help. This infection spread into another eye as well. As a result, he became totally blind by the age of 5.

Saaransh : Oh! So, sad.

Mom : Actually. But Louis was a brave and bright boy. He continued studying with the help of his family and kind teachers. Teachers always lent a helping hand towards studious Louis. But he was upset about being unable to read and write. Louis was determined to overcome this barrier. At the age of 12 he secured a scholarship and went to the Royal institute of Blind Youth in Paris. Once Royal institute invited veteran military man Charles Barbier to teach his system of night writing. Here Louis was introduced the night writing system by a man himself Mr. Charles Barbier. Over the time Louis realized the limitations of Night writing. In Charles system the embossed dots represented phonetic sounds omitting letters and thus prevented precise spellings of words. It also lacked punctuation, symbol that could represent mathematical and musical notation. The most important challenge was that the human finger could not encompass 12 dot system, therefore a reader could not move quickly from one symbol to the next.

Louis worked relentlessly to modify night writing for 5 years. Soon the hard work of this super genius bore fruit and he reduced 12 raised dots to 6 dots enabling recognizing single letter with single touch. He worked with awl and grid to imprint the raised dots, dashes on the paper. This made reading for the blind much easier and faster.

Braille published a book explaining the entire Braille code for reading and writing. But the university where he was studying refused to adopt the Braille system. This did not stop Louis. After being appointed as teacher in the university, he started teaching Braille to the students. This helped immensely to the students in their reading and writing. Two years after the sad demise of Louis Braille, due to growing demand from the students, university had to adopt Braille system officially in 1854. Since then Braille writing system has spread widely all over the world. As Braille is not a language it’s a sense of touch, system of writing, any language can be perceived with it.

Timeless tribute was given to this great human being by NASA. An asteroid has been named as 9969 braille to honor him. 

Saaransh : Louis Braille was real super hero as he made it possible for the blind people read.

Mom : True by all means. Now is the time to sleep.

Saaransh : Good night Mom!

Mom : Good night.:

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