Cornhill Magazine,  9 (1864), 603–17.

Blind Workers and Blind Helpers

[Frances Martin]




Disability, Institutions, Hospitals, Education, Neurology, Endeavour, Skill, Mathematics, Invention, Instruments

People mentioned:

Samuel T Coleridge , John Metcalf

    Contends that blindness is 'the greatest known privation' (603), and that at the present day there are 'thirty thousand blind men and women in Great Britain and Ireland, and nearly all of them are poor' (607). The blind are cursed with 'misplaced pity and tenderness', and we either 'shut them out of society, and keep them apart in charitable institutions, or we say "Go and beg"', both of which fail to recognize that the 'blind require a peculiar education' that can help bring out their particular talents and abilities and make them valuable contributors to society and the economy (605). Like 'the "blind bat", which has become a proverb', and which 'can feel the vibrations of the air' via the extremely delicate membrane that covers it's wings, blind people 'tell us that they have sensations of the objects near them' which may, at least in part, be 'attributed to a special development of the organs' (605–06). Relates the accounts of the lives of various successful blind people given in James Wilson's Biography of the Blind, including that of John Gough, who 'was not only an excellent mathematician, but as a botanist and zoologist he was infallible' (606). Similarly, Henry Moyes became 'the first blind lecturer on chemistry and optics, and next to Saunderson, he affords the most striking example on record of "attainments in mathematics made without assistance from the eye"' and was 'entirely dependent on his own exertions, as a lecturer and man of science, for support'. Also quotes a blind French woman who declared that 'Geometry is the proper science for the blind, because no assistance is wanting to carry it to perfection; the geometrician passes almost all his life with his eyes shut'. (611) Gives a sympathetic account of the 'very interesting experiment' currently being conducted by the Association for Promoting the General Welfare of the Blind, founded in London by Elizabeth M M Gilbert (612), drawing particular attention to the 'very simple apparatus, invented by Mr. Levy' which enables the blind to both write and read using embossed characters (613).

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