Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

Founder of the first school for the blind, and known under the endearing name of "Father and Apostle of the Blind"; b. at Saint-Just, in the department of Picardy, France, 13 November, 1745: d. at Paris, 19 March, 1822. He received his early education with his elder brother, Réne, at the abbey school of the Premonstratensians, not far from Saint-Just. Valentin never became a priest. After his preliminary studies he went to Paris, where he applied himself to calligraphy and to modern languages. These he taught for a time, to support himself, until he became attached to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as an interpreter of state papers and foreign despatches. The inspiration to devote the remainder of his life to the education of the blind came to Haüy in 1771 after witnessing at a fair, in one of the suburbs of Paris, burlesque performance in which the blindness of sightless beggars was made the object of ridicule and general merriment. "I shall substitute truth for mockery", he said to himself; "I shall teach the blind to read and to write, and give them books printed by themselves." This was no empty boast. The inspiration to do for the blind what the Abbé de l'Epée was then doing for the deaf and dumb became an accomplished fact thirteen years later. In June, 1784 Haüy sought his first pupil at the church door of Saint-Germain des Pres. Francois Lesueur, who was a beggar and blind from birth, was then sixteen years old. Haüy prevailed upon him to give up begging by promising to support his parents. Before the fall of 1786 Haüy had made the discovery of what had only dimly been foreshadowed, the art of printing books in relief for the blind. This discovery, the undisputed triumph of Haüy's ingenuity, solved for all time the most difficult problem in the education of the blind and, with the foundation of the first school for the blind, led to a movement which has resulted in the social and intellectual rehabilitation of the blind througthout the whole civilized world. By 5 December, 1786, Haüy's pupils had embossed from movable letterpress type his "Essai sur l'éducation des aveugles" the first book ever published for the blind (see S.V., EDUCATION OF THE BLIND, V, 308). On 26 December of the same year, twenty-four of Haüy's pupils gave at Versailles in the presence of Louis XVI and the royal family an exhibition of their attainments in reading, writing, geography, arithmetic, handcraft work, and orchestral music. With the patronage of the king, Haüy had also secured for his school the approbation of the Academy of Science and Arts and the support of the Philanthropic Society. During the French Revolution and the subsequent disorganization of the Philanthropic Society, Haüy's school lacked its wonted support. Although the National Assembly, and later on the Convention, had declared it a national institution and had voted for it an annual subsidy, yet so scanty was the help accorded to it that it barely survived the Reign of Terror. In 1801, on a report to Napoleon from Chaptal, Minister of the Interior, the school was merged with the Hospice Quinze-Vingts. A year later, Napoleon relieved Haüy of the direction of the school and granted him a pension of 2000 francs. ln February, 1802, Haüy started a private school in the rue Sainte-Avoye. Through lack of funds, however, the "Musée des Aveugles", his new foundation, never attained much prominence. In 1806, on the invitation of Alexander I, Haüy left for St. Petersburg where he founded, in 1808, a school for the blind, on the model of the National Institution in Paris. On his way to Russia, Haüy had an interview at Charlottenburg with Frederick William III of Prussia. He prevailed upon the king to found an institution for the blind at Berlin, and to appoint Dr. Zeune as its first director. From his arrival at St. Petersburg, 9 Sept., 1806, until his departure, Haüy's devotion and zeal in doing for the blind of Russia what he had done for those of his own native country were put to many a severe test, and rewarded with but scanty gratitude. Weakened with age and infirmity, Haüy wished to die in France. He left St. Petersburg in 1817. On his return to Paris he went to live with his brother, the Abbé Haüy, in whose arms he peacefully expired.

The publications of Valentin Haüy are his "Essai sur l'éducation des aveugles" (Paris, 1786), and "Mémoire historique sur les télégraphes" (Paris, 1810).


More Encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed in fifteen hardcopy volumes.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Ephesians 6:10-20
10 Finally, grow strong in the Lord, with the ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 144:1, 2, 9-10
1 [Of David] Blessed be Yahweh, my rock, who trains ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 13:31-35
31 Just at this time some Pharisees came up. 'Go ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 30th, 2014 Image

St. Alphonsus Rodriguez
October 30: Confessor and Jay brother, also called Alonso. He was born in ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter