Al-Amidi's System of Writing for the Blind
It is commonly known that in 1824 a Frenchman by the name of Louis Braille (1809-1852) invented a system of writing for the blind in which he used a pattern of "6 dots". It was initially called the "cell" system for the blind.
Louis Braille was himself blind. His system of writing became very popular and just two years after his death was widely used all over France.
Braille Alphabet - this consists of 63 characters made up of a series of six dots raised on paper so that they can be read by passing fingers lightly over the manuscript. A universal Braille code for the English speaking world was adopted in London in 1932.
It is interesting to note that 600 years before Braille ALI IBN AHMED IBN YUSUF IBN AL-KHIZR AL-AMIDI, a Syrian Muslim, who died in 1314 CE was an expert in reading such a system. He too was blind from childhood.
It is a well known fact that the finger tactile receptors of blind people are exceptionally well developed and Al-Amidi was also gifted in this super-sense. It allowed him not only to locate books on shelves by the sense of touch but also enabled him to determine the number of pages of the book. He was also able to ascertain the value of the books by t
he spacing of the lines.
Whenever he went to buy a book he would always take with him a piece of paper. He would roll the paper into the shape of a letter of the alphabet which he would then stick onto the cover of the book. The letter used would be part of a code that he had adopted to categorise the books. At a later date by simply touching the letter he was able to identify which book it was, its title, price, number of pages etc.
This in fact was the beginning of the "Braille" writing almost 600 years before the birth of Louis Braille. It is ironic that this fact is hardly recorded or not mentioned at all in the history books.
Saudi Arabia in 1975 and 1981 and Egypt in 1961 both issued postal stamps showing a blind man reading Braille. 31st March 1975 was known as the Day of the Blind and 1981 was declared as the International Year of Disabled Persons.
1. "Triumph over darkness - The life of Louis Braille" by Lenard Bickel 1988. (Unwin Hyman Ltd, London)
2. "Nakt Al-Hemyan Fi Nakt Al-Imyan" by Salah Eddin Al-Safadam, 1911, Cairo, Egypt.
3. "Al-Muktabas" journal (Arabic newspaper), Volume 6, 1911.
by: FSTC Limited, Mon 02 June, 2003