A curious boy – his name is Louis,
Born 1809, just east of Paris;
His father a tanner, Simon-René,
Whose workshop becomes a place to play:
Off Louis toddles as soon as he’s walking,
To the place where his father makes tack for the horses.
Quick as a flash in his three-year-old fervour,
He picks up the awl to puncture the leather;
Drives it down hard – his gaze intent,
And yelps with a sudden stab of pain:
The tool he’d played with so many times
Had struck him a blow; he was blind in one eye.
A child leaving home – his name is Louis,
His parents have far outdone their duty;
His father the tanner made canes for a change,
Walked round the village and taught him the way:
But to further expand his ten-year-old mind,
A school in Paris – the first of its kind.
Every pupil with aspirations –
All of them blind, they craved education;
The school’s founder, who saw the need,
Had a system in place to teach them to read:
He gave it his name and called it Haüy;
It talked to the fingers in the language of the eye.
Raised print on wet paper, pressed against wire –
Though helped by the books, you’d quickly tire;
What they contained was scant at best,
And how could a blind person write for themselves?
Surely a better system was plausible,
And Louis determined to make it workable.
A youth with a purpose – his name is Louis;
From his own words, we can tell he’s displeased:
“We don’t want to be patronised by condescending sighted people,
We don’t want to be reminded we’re vulnerable”;
He yearned for the blind to be treated equally
And in his mind, communication was the key.
Through the news or in person we can’t be sure,
But Louis learned of an officer
Whose ranks of soldiers, there on the ground,
Could talk to each other without light or sound:
Just dots and dashes indented on paper,
That’s all it took to share information.
From that time on, the idea was sparked;
Now he had something to make a start:
Twelve dots became six, and he worked on the shapes –
Ten different ones, from A to J;
Add an extra dot for the following set,
And another to end the alphabet.
A Catholic by profession – his name is Louis;
I see the Bible there in his story:
All works for good to those who love their God;
The same tool that blinded him was used to make those dots:
In 1824, at just fifteen,
His very first prototype came on the scene.
A Frenchman with a legacy – his name was Louis …