When we compare problems to something unusual, we tend to have a need to understand it. Consequently, we break it down and analyze the different parts to see if this will allow us to understand it or make it somehow familiar. When this happens, we form new links and relationships that may lead to breakthrough ideas.

Consider Louis Braille (1809-1852). He was born in Coupvray, a town in north central France, on January 4, 1809. At the age of three, he accidentally blinded himself playing with a stitching awl taken from his father’s leather workshop.

As he aged he wondered about his abilities as a blind person. What can blind people do? One day he picked up an object. He touched it carefully, turning it over and over, feeling tiny spears covering its spherical body and suddenly realized it was a pine cone. He thought carefully about how “touching the object” allowed him to see it in his mind. This relationship inspired him to link touching to reading.

He researched looking for methods for communication using touch instead of sight. He discovered a system of tangible writing using dots, invented in 1819 by Capt. Charles Barbier, a French army officer. It was called night writing and was intended for night-time battlefield communications.

In 1824, when he was only 15 years old, Braille developed a six-dot “cell” system. He used Barbier’s system as a starting point and cut its 12-dot configuration in half. The system was first published in 1829; a more complete elaboration appeared in 1837. Braille is read by passing one’s fingertips over characters made up of an arrangement of one to six embossed points. The relative positions of these points represent different alphanumeric characters. Braille can be written with a Braillewriter (similar to a typewriter) or by using a pointed stylus to punch dots through paper using an instrument called a Braille slate, which has rows of small cells in it as a guide. Braille has since been adapted to almost every known language and is an essential tool for blind people everywhere.

He invented a universal system for reading and writing to be used by people who are blind or visually impaired that now bears his name. He published the first Braille book, Method of Writing Words, Music, and Plain Songs by Means of Dots, for Use by the Blind and Arranged for Them at age 20.2 A talented musician, he also developed a Braille musical codification.

As an adult, Braille became the first blind apprentice teacher at the New School for the Blind in Paris, France. There, he taught algebra, grammar, music, and geography. He later became the first blind full professor at the school. Braille saved enough money from his teaching position to buy himself a piano so he could practice whenever he wished. Despite his small salary, he also made many personal gifts and loans to his students to help them purchase warm clothing and other necessities. Braille developed tuberculosis in his mid-20s, and for the rest of his life had periods of health interspersed with times of pain and illness. When in good health, he maintained a heavy teaching load and held several jobs playing the organ.

Braille’s system was immediately accepted and used by his fellow students, but wider acceptance was slow in coming. The system was not officially adopted by the school in Paris until 1854, two years after Braille’s death. A universal Braille code for the English-speaking world was not adopted until 1932, when representatives from agencies for the blind in Great Britain and the United States met in London and agreed upon a system known as Standard English Braille, grade 2. In 1957 Anglo-American experts again met in London to further improve the system.


Michael Michalko is a highly acclaimed creativity expert. To learn about him visit: https://imagineer7.wordpress.com/about-michael-michalko/

To learn about his books visit:https://www.amazon.com/s?k=michael+michalko%5C&ref=nb_sb_noss_2

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