Louis Braille Google Doodle
The 24th of January 2006 saw the Google homepage taken over by a Louis Braille Google Doodle to celebrate what would have been his 107th birthday. The Louis Braille Google Doodle was written in Braille’s system of lettering which enables blind people to read and write. In the Louis Braille Google Doodle each of the letters of the Google logo was comprised of raised dots spelling out the characters, the letters were coloured to match those of the search engine’s trademark.
Louis Braille was born on January 24th 1809 in the French town of Coupvray, to Simon-Rene and Monique, he also had three older siblings. Although Braille was not born blind, he lost his eyesight when he was three as the result of an accident. The accident occurred when Braille was using an awl in order to make holes in a piece of leather. Unfortunately the awl glanced across the leather and struck him in the eye. Initially it was thought that the young Braille’s vision could be saved as a local physician cleaned, bound and patched the eye and arranged for a Parisian surgeon to treat the wound. Unfortunately it was subsequently found that the injury was untreatable.
The young Braille’s suffering did not end there, weeks of pain and misery followed as the wound became heavily infected before spreading to his other eye. Although Braille survived the torment of the infection he was completely blind by the age of five. With the support of his parents, the young Braille was able to champion his disability. His father made him a set of canes and Braille used these to navigate the paths and tracks of his village and surrounding countryside. Braille was encouraged by his childhood teachers to pursue further education due to his creative mind.
Due to Braille’s combination of raw intellect and personal diligence, he was granted a position at one of the world’s first schools specifically designed for the education of blind people. At the age of ten, Braille left Coupvray in order to study at the Royal Institute for Blind Youth, now named the National Institute for Blind Youth, in the French capital.
Following his education, Braille dedicated himself to discovering a means of closing the communication gap between blind people and sighted people. In 1821 Braille discovered a system of communication devised by French Army Captain Charles Barbier. Barbier’s system, named “night writing” made use of a series of dots and dashes impressed into thick paper in order to form a code. The code was designed to enable soldiers to communicate silently in war zones without requiring light. Although Barbier’s system was effective it was too complex, this inspired Braille to develop his own code which was less complex.
Braille worked tirelessly to develop his code and had largely finished it in 1824 at the age of just fifteen. He created a system of uniformed columns for each letter and made use of a six dot system. This system was officially published in 1829, with a second edition published in 1837.
Although widely respected during his lifetime, Braille’s system was not used until after his death. The system began to be used following the first conference for teachers of the blind in Europe which was held in 1873. Following the conference, the Braille system began to be used internationally. Despite this, the English Braille code was not formalised until 1932.
Braille suffered from a recurring respiratory illness, which historians suspect to be tuberculosis, the illness deteriorated and as a result Braille died on January 26th 1852, aged just 43. Google has celebrated the achievements of numerous innovators alongside this Louis Braille Google Doodle with other dedicated doodles, including Samuel Morse and Alan Turing.