Hello, goodbye: Abraham Nemeth, inventor of Braille for math

Often the first time I learn about an interesting person is when he has died and his obituary appears in the New York Times. So it is with Abraham Nemeth, a scholar and educator who was blind since infancy.

During the time he grew up, visually impaired people were discouraged from studying for careers in math, because Braille was too limiting. Nemeth rejected that limitation and instead created a subset of Braille to accommodate mathematical expression. The Nemeth Code is still in use today and has made it possible for untold numbers of blind people to go beyond a rudimentary study of math.

What an amazing thing. It’s virtually impossible for me to conceive of working out a math problem without a visual reference, like a pencil and paper, or a calculator.