Louis Braille
Louis Braille by Étienne Leroux.jpg
Bust of Louis Braille
by Étienne Leroux (1836-1906),
Bibliothèque nationale de France
Born January 4, 1809(1809-01-04)
Coupvray, France
Died January 06, 1852 (age 43)
Paris, France
Resting place Panthéon, Paris
48°50′46″N 2°20′45″E / 48.84611, 2.34583
File:Louis Braille Signature.svg

Louis Braille (January 4, 1809 – January 6, 1852) was the inventor of braille,[1] a worldwide system used by blind and visually impaired people for reading and writing. Braille is read by passing the fingers over characters made up of an arrangement of one to six embossed points. It has been adapted to almost every known language.

Early lifeEdit

Braille house07

Bust of Louis Braille at his birthplace

Braille was born in Coupvray, a small town located southeast of Paris in Seine-et-Marne. His father was a saddlemaker, who also crafted harnesses, bags and leather straps. As soon as he could walk, Louis spent time playing in his father's workshop. At age three, he scratched his right eye while making holes in a piece of leather with a pruning knife or awl that was too heavy for him. There was nothing anyone could do except patch and bind the affected eye. The wound became severely infected and spread to his left eye causing his blindness.

At the age of 10, Braille earned a scholarship to the National Institute for the Blind Youth in Paris,[2] one of the first of its kind in the world. However, living conditions in the school were poor. Louis was served stale bread and water, and students were sometimes abused or locked up as a form of punishment.

Despite these circumstances, Braille proved to be a bright and creative student. His ear for music enabled him to become an accomplished cellist and organist in classes taught by Marrigues. (Later in life, his musical talents this lead him to play the organ for churches all over France, and he held the position of organist in Paris at the Church of Saint-Nicolas-des-Champs 1834 and at the Church of Saint-Vincent-de-Paul in 1845.)

Children at the school were taught basic craftsman skills and simple trades. They were also taught how to read by feeling raised letters (a system devised by the school's founder, Valentin Haüy). However, because the raised letters were made using paper pressed against copper wire, the students never learned to write. Another disadvantage was that the letters weighed a lot and whenever people published books using this system, they put together a book with multiple stories in one in order to save money. This made the books sometimes weigh over a hundred pounds. The school had only three books, all of which Louis read.

Development of the Braille SystemEdit

In 1821, Charles Barbier, a former Captain in the French Army, visited the school. Barbier shared his invention called "night writing", a code of 12 raised dots and a number of dashes that let soldiers share top-secret information on the battlefield without having to speak. The code was too difficult for Louis to understand, but it inspired him to think about developing a system of his own.


"Louis Braille" in braille

Braille's tomb in the Pantheon

Braille's tomb in the crypt of the Panthéon.

2009 USA One Dollar Coin Louis Braille

2009 USA one dollar coin commemorating the birth of Louis Braille.

Louis Braille began to invent his raised-dot system with his father's stitching awl, the same implement with which he had blinded himself, completing it at age 15, in 1824. Rather than 12 raised dots used in Barbier, his system uses only six dots, possibly influenced by wooden dice his father had given to him. Braille's new system had several advantages. The six-dot system allows the recognition of letters with a single fingertip, which enables comprehension of all the dots at once with no movement or repositioning of fingers that slows understanding in systems requiring more dots. The dots are organized into patterns that keep the system easy to learn. The Braille system also offers numerous benefits over Haüy's raised letter method, the most notable being the ability to both read and write an alphabet. Another very notable benefit is that because they were dots just slightly raised, volumes of text could be smaller, lighter, and easier to produce.

Braille later extended his system to include notation for mathematics and music. In 1829, he published the first book about his system, entitled Method of Writing Words, Music, and Plain Songs by Means of Dots, for Use by the Blind and Arranged for Them. This book was printed by using the raised letter method (“relief linéaire” in French).[3] In 1839 he published details of a method he had developed for communication with sighted people, using patterns of dots to approximate the shape of printed symbols. With his friend Pierre Foucault, he went on to develop a Braille typewriter to speed up the somewhat cumbersome system.

Death and honorsEdit

Braille became a well-respected teacher at the Institute. Although he was admired and respected by his pupils, his writing system was not taught at the Institute during his lifetime. He died in Paris of tuberculosis in 1852 at the age of 43, and was buried in Coupvray. His body was disinterred at the centenary of his death in 1952 and he was reinterred with honors in the Panthéon in Paris. His system was finally officially recognized in France two years after his death, in 1854.[4]

The 200th anniversary of his birth in 2009 was widely celebrated throughout Europe by exhibitions and symposiums about life and achievements. Belgium and Italy struck 2 euro coins, India struck a 2 rupee coin, and the USA struck a one dollar coin to mark the event.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ To Jamie LOusvetion the proper noun "Braille" is written in lower case ("braille") when referring to the writing system. It is also pronounced differently: /ˈbreɪl/
  2. ^ Vision Australia,
  3. ^ Valentin Haüy Association,
  4. ^ [1] Pamela Lorimer (1996), Historical analysis and critical evaluation of braille, Ch.2

External linksEdit

NAME Braille, Louis
DATE OF BIRTH 1809-01-04
PLACE OF BIRTH Coupvray, France
DATE OF DEATH 1852-01-06
PLACE OF DEATH Paris, France
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