Charles Barbier
Charles Barbier de la Serre was the creator of night writing
Night writing
Night writing was a system of code that used symbols of twelve dots arranged as two columns of six dots embossed on a square of paperboard, and is now remembered as the forerunner of Braille. It was designed by Charles Barbier in response to Napoleon's demand for a code that soldiers could use to...


Charles Barbier de la Serre was a Captain in the French Army
French Army
The French Army, officially the Armée de Terre , is the land-based and largest component of the French Armed Forces.As of 2010, the army employs 123,100 regulars, 18,350 part-time reservists and 7,700 Legionnaires. All soldiers are professionals, following the suspension of conscription, voted in...

 during the early 19th century. "Ecriture Nocturne" (night writing) was invented in response to Napoleon's
Napoleon I of France
Napoleon Bonaparte was a French military and political leader during the latter stages of the French Revolution.As Napoleon I, he was Emperor of the French from 1804 to 1815...

 demand for a code that soldiers could use to communicate silently and without light at night.

Barbier's system was related to the Polybius square
Polybius square
In cryptography, the Polybius square, also known as the Polybius checkerboard, is a device invented by the Ancient Greek historian and scholar Polybius, described in , for fractionating plaintext characters so that they can be represented by a smaller set of symbols.-Basic form :The original square...

, in which a two-digit code represents a letter. In Barbier's variant, a 6x6 square includes most of the letters of the French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

 alphabet, as well as several digraphs and trigraphs:


A letter (or digraph or trigraph) was represented by two columns of dots, in which the first column had one to six dots denoting the row in the square and the second had one to six dots denoting the column: e. g. 4-2 for "t" represented by


As many as twelve dots (two columns of 6) would be needed to represent one symbol.

Barbier's system was not a simple encoding of French orthography. The system required the user to first encode the standard spelling into a quasi-phonetic rendering. Mellor

gives the following example:

Une femme était restée veuve avec trois garçons et ne subsistait que par leur travail (A woman had been widowed with three sons and was provided for only by their work.)

encoded as:

un fam étè résté veuve avec troi garson é n subsistè q d leur travall

Eventually Barbier introduced his concept to the blind
Blindness is the condition of lacking visual perception due to physiological or neurological factors.Various scales have been developed to describe the extent of vision loss and define blindness...

 at the suggestion of members of the French Royal Academy of Sciences
French Academy of Sciences
The French Academy of Sciences is a learned society, founded in 1666 by Louis XIV at the suggestion of Jean-Baptiste Colbert, to encourage and protect the spirit of French scientific research...

. In 1821, students at the Royal Institution for Blind Youth in Paris assembled to allow Charles Barbier de la Serre to demonstrate his system. The system was favorably received, because the older system of embossed Roman letters with its curves and straight lines was much harder for blind people to understand than the simple patterns of dots. Barbier also provided a system by which the students could write his symbols, using a special writing board and a pointed tool to make the dots.

Louis Braille
Louis Braille
Louis Braille was the inventor of braille, a system of reading and writing used by people who are blind or visually impaired...

, who was a boy studying at the institution at the time, was interested in Barbier's method. Braille had suggestions on improving the code, based on (among other things) reducing the number of dot positions from 12 in 6 rows to 6 in 3 rows, which was easier to scan with the fingers, but Barbier, because of his aristocratic manner, felt insulted that a boy had tried to improve his code. Later, Braille transformed night writing, which Barbier had invented, and turned it into a system used to this day: Braille
The Braille system is a method that is widely used by blind people to read and write, and was the first digital form of writing.Braille was devised in 1825 by Louis Braille, a blind Frenchman. Each Braille character, or cell, is made up of six dot positions, arranged in a rectangle containing two...


See also

  • Slate and stylus
    Slate and stylus
    The slate and stylus are tools used by blind persons to write text that they can read without assistance. Invented by Charles Barbier and Louis Braille as the tool for "writing" Braille, the slate and stylus allow for a quick, easy, convenient and constant method of making embossed printing for...

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.