January 4th: Birth Anniversary of Louis Braille, inventor of the alphabet for the blind

Louis Braille was born on 4 January 1809. At the age of three, he injured his eye with a tool in his father's cobbler's workshop and by the age of five he was completely blind. Louis' parents did everything possible to help him learn and develop, they even made an alphabet to teach him to read - nails in the shape of letters were hammered into the boards. In spite of his disability, Louis learned to read, play the violin and make shoes and harnesses. 

At the age of 10, the boy was admitted to the Royal Institute for Blind Youth in Paris. The institution taught students using textbooks with raised line fonts. However, there were not enough books for everyone, and teachers relied more on students perceiving information by ear. 

In 1824, at the age of 15, Louis developed an embossed tactile code. He was inspired by Charles Barbier's 'night writing', developed at Napoleon's request, which used 12 raised dots which were formed by piercing cardboard and could be read by touch. Military reports written in this code could be read in the dark. 

At the heart of Braille is the "braille cell": 6 raised dots, which can easily fit under the fingertip, are arranged in two vertical rows, the presence or absence of each dot forming 63 combinations, each corresponding to a letter, number or sign. 

The system was not immediately adopted even in his home institute, where Braille worked as a teacher-tutor. The invention was only appreciated as revolutionary a few years later, and Braille has now been adapted for many languages. 

Louis' invention is one of the children's inventions that has changed the world and made people's lives easier. Kid Inventors' Day is celebrated on 17 January. The date is chosen as the birthday of Benjamin Franklin, who invented a pair of swim fins at the age of 12.