Le Musée Valentin Haüy

In researching one of the mystery items of the week, the blogger at The What Is It? blog found a short history of text for the blind. It started with Valentin Haüy, who was appalled at the poor treatment the visually impaired suffered in Paris in 1771. He responded by founding a school and developing a system of raised letters the blind could learn to read. Haüy’s work was later improved upon by Nicholas Charles Barbier de la Serre, who devised a system of raised dots to represent phonetic sounds. Later, young Louis Braille learned both systems and improved upon them both by marrying the raised dot system to corresponding letters of the alphabet. What does this have to do with a What Is It item? The post has quite a few items from the Valentin Haüy Museum, including the device shown.

A considerable number of the blind were also deaf, or deaf and mute. The museum also shows equipment developed to meet their needs. In the image below we have a device to communicate with someone both blind and deaf. The sender pressed the keys and the receiver could feel the appropriate pins rising and falling, spelling words in Braille.

There are plenty of other fascinating museum displays along with the story at Parisian Fields.


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A doorbell chime, padlock. You play the chimes in a certain order to unlock your front door. It didn't take off very well, because anyone within 100 meters in every direction was going to hear the combination.

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