Character Sketch. Dr. F. J. Campbell, of the Kingdom of the Blind
Regular Feature, Biography
Disability, Statistics, Education, Schools
Reports that the Royal Normal College for the Blind is 'just now in the crisis of its destinies', and so 'no moment could be selected more timely for the publication of a Character Sketch' devoted to its 'remarkable' founder Francis J Campbell (233). Across the world 'the denizens of the Kingdom of the Blind are at least one million strong', while in Britain there are '32,000 sightless of all ages' (234). In the early 1870s both Campbell, an American expatriate originally from Tennessee, and Thomas R Armitage, founder of the British and Foreign Blind Association, tried to introduce educational innovations in existing schools and colleges for the blind, but found that the 'citizens of the Kingdom of the Blind looked askance at these revolutionary proposals' and 'new-fangled theories', and so the two men determined to start 'a small school and try the experiment' themselves (241). The Royal Normal College for the Blind at Norwood in South London is now 'a veritable city of light' for its 160 pupils, and 'although no one can make them see with their eyes, Dr. Campbell has to a very large extent succeeded in making them see with their fingers' and enabling them to 'move about with an alert confidence'. Campbell himself is an accomplished mountaineer and the 'only blind man who has ever ascended Mont Blanc'. Indeed, John Tyndall, 'meeting the indomitable little man in the Alps, inquired as he took his arm, "Are you really blind, or are you only humbug?". (242) The college 'under the shadow of the towers of the Crystal Palace' (234) is undoubtedly the 'best of its kind', but it now faces debts of nearly £25,000, and readers of the Review of Reviews are called upon to help raise the 'comparatively trifling sum necessary to wipe off this financial embarrassment, and to restore it to its necessary independence' (244).
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