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Louis Braille Quiz

Louis Braille was a French educator and inventor of a reading and writing system for use by people who are visually impaired. His system remains virtually unchanged to this day, and is known worldwide simply as braille. Here’s a quiz to test your knowledge about this great man of whom Helen Keller has said, “We the blind are as indebted to Louis Braille as mankind is to Gutenberg.”

#1. What caused Louis Braille's blindness?

At age three Louis accidentally injured one eye with an awl in his father’s harness and saddle-making shop. The inflammation from the injury spread and within about a year Louis was totally blind due to sympathetic ophthalmia.

#2. Where was Louis Braille born?

On January 4, 1809 Louis Braille was born in Coupvray, a village 25 miles east of Paris. He was the youngest of four children born to Simon-Rene and Monique Braille.

#3. At what age did Louis Braille become blind?

#4. How was Louis Braille educated?

Louis attended regular school classes with sighted children for several years. In 1819 at age ten he began attending the Institution Royale des Jeunes Aveugles in Paris. This school was established by Valentin Haüy in 1784 and was the first school for the blind. Haüy had devised a method for printing books with embossed letters for blind students. When Louis began his studies, the school had 100 students and only 14 books with embossed print. The school was housed in a 200-year-old building which was poorly ventilated, had wet clammy walls and smelled of mildew. Water for cooking and washing came straight from the River Seine without any filtering. The building had previously served as a seminary and a prison.

#5. Who provided the inspiration for Louis Braille's invention of a method of reading and writing for the blind?

In 1821 a French army officer, Charles Barbier, presented his night writing code at the school. He created this tactile code to help soldiers communicate during the noise and confusion of battle and also at night so that a light would not betray them to the enemy. The system used 12 raised dots. It was based on sounds and did not have symbols for the actual letters of the alphabet or punctuation marks. Louis created a 6-dot Braille cell, half the size of Barbier’s cell. The Braille cell consists of two vertical rows of three dots. There are 64 possible combinations of these 6 dots. He created symbols for the letters of the alphabet, numbers and punctuation marks. He also created a code to read and write musical notations. Unlike Haüy’s embossed print letters and Barbier’s 12-dot cell, the Braille cell was just the right size to read with the fingertip.

#6. Louis Braille had created the Braille system by age 15. Blind students readily accepted and learned the new code, but their teachers resisted it. Which of the following was NOT a complaint offered by the teachers who opposed the Braille code?

#7. Which one of the following instruments did Louis Braille NOT play?

Louis Braille played the piano, organ and cello. He supplemented his income as a teacher by playing the organ at Paris churches. His organ playing was praised by Felix Mendelssohn. He created a music code and in 1829 published this in a book entitled, Method of Writing Words, Music and Plain Songs by Means of Dots, for use by the Blind and Arranged for Them.

#8. Besides the Braille Script, Louis Braille also invented raphigraphy. What is it?

Raphigraphy was a way for blind people to independently write letters to sighted people. Raised dots were used to represent print letters. This process was time consuming (the letter “I” required 16 individually punched dots). In 1841 a blind friend, Pierre Foucault, created a piston board that produced all of the dots for a single letter at once. This could be considered the precursor to the dot matrix printer of today.

#9. After his death a small wooden box was found on which was written, "To be burned without opening." Nevertheless, the box was opened. What did it contain?

The box contained Braille IOUs from students for the many generous loans made by their teacher. As well as leaving money to his family, Louis left bequests to his former school to help blind students find jobs. He also left money to a sighted boy who acted as his guide, a night watchman and a boy who worked in the infirmary. Louis had forgiven all debts in his will. The wooden box was burned in accordance with his wishes but only after it had been opened.

#10. From what did Louis Braille die?

On January 6, 1852, two days after his 43rd birthday, Louis Braille died from tuberculosis. He had developed the ailment in his mid-twenties. Many students and teachers at the school suffered from bad health, no doubt partially due to the unhealthy environment of the school.

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