For thousands of years, the ability of blind people to participate fully in social, political, and cultural life was limited by the lack of access to written or printed forms of information. Although the work of many others contributed to his accomplishment, Louis Braille’s invention of a tactile six-dot reading and writing system revolutionized the way blind people perceived and contributed to the world.
Born January 4, 1809, in Coupvray, France, Louis Braille lost his sight at age three as a result of an injury. Educated at the Royal Institute for Blind Youth in Paris, Braille was recognized as highly intelligent and creative. By fifteen, he had developed the initial version of a tactile system of reading and writing—later refined to a raised, six-dot cell with sixty-four possible combinations corresponding to the alphabet, punctuation, and key symbols. He later devised braille systems for music and mathematics.
When Braille died in 1852 from tuberculosis at age forty-three, he did not realize that his invention would enable blind and visually handicapped people throughout the world to read and write as well as sighted people. Today, we have approximately eighty-five braille systems in the world based on Braille’s invention. In mounting Louis Braille: His Legacy and Influence, the Library of Congress joins the worldwide commemoration of the inventor’s 200th birthday.