« ZurückWeiter »
ACHIEVEMENTS OF THE BLIND IN THE LEARNED
SERIES 1.- SECTION I.
PROGRESS IN THE SCIENCES.
HAVING given in the preceding pages a somewhat detailed account of a sufficient number of authors, and extracts from their writings, to establish the literary character of the blind, we next proceed to notice in a more summary manner, the success of this class in the scientific pursuits. As the hydrographical chart points out to the mariner a safe course over the trackless ocean, and national history affords to the legislator the experience of past ages, so the biographies of those who have risen against every tide of opposition from a lowly station in life to one of honor and distinction, serve in a powerful manner to stimulate others to grapple with similar difficulties. Whatever may be the impediments in our course, if we have the assurance that others, under like circumstances, have surmounted them, and arrived in triumph at the mark to which we aspire, the bugbear of impossibility is removed, and the timid heart, gathering courage, moves forward, cheered by the way.
marks of predecessors. But more especially is this true of the blind, than any other class of mankind.
All the higher institutions of learning, with their experimenting laboratories, improvements in the arts, and an application of natural agents to the multifarious labor-saving machineries that have transformed the civilized world into one spacious bee-hive, these are all especially adapted to the seeing. And the blind must still depend upon their own experience, and that of their predecessors, to force from society and nature the means by which to supply their daily wauts, and to exercise their genius in the arts and higher pursuits of knowledge. The examples we shall give in these series are so diversified, (we are happy to say,) as to furnish every blind youth with a
Ꮎ pattern or example, into whatever worthy pursuit his genius or taste may incline him.
The first notable character under this head of which history informs us, is DIODOTUS, a stoic philosopher, who lived about one hundred years B. C. He was the preceptor of Cicero, the Roman orator, in Greek literature and geometry, and for many years his intimate friend. He was ever assiduous in the study of philosophy, and eminently successful as a teacher of geometry; a thing, says Cicero, which one would think scarcely possible for a blind man to do, yet would be direct his pupils where every line was to be drawn just as exactly as if he had the use of his eyes.
Another Roman, named AUFIDIUS BASSUS, who lost
his sight in early youth, was famous in his time for attainments in philosophy, geometry, and knowledge of general literature. He was also the author of an excellent Greek history.
But antiquity can boast of no greater genius than DIDYMUS, of Alexandria, who flourished in the fourth century. This distinguished man, who lost his sight at four years of age, is known to us principally as a theological writer. But we are informed by his pupil, St. Jerome, that he also distinguished himself at the school of Alexandria, in every department of science then conceived to constitute the whole field of human learning. He was so great a proficient in the ology that he was chosen to, and long filled, the chair in the famous divinity school at Alexandria. His high reputation secured for him many scholars, some of whom are known as among the most distinguished writers of that period. He was the author of numerous works, a catalogue of which is preserved in the writings of St. Jerome. His treatise on the Holy Spirit (a Latin translation of which only remains) is said to be the best ever possessed by the Christian world. He died in 398, aged eighty-five years. So great was his fame abroad, that St. Anthony (excited by the same curiosity that moved the queen of Shebah to visit Solomon) came from the desert to satisfy himself concerning the wisdom and sanctity of this famous philosopher, who being informed by Didymus in answer to his questions, that he deplored his deprivation, notwithstanding his attainments, the saint
was much surprised, and marveled that so wise a man should lament the loss of a faculty, “which we only possess” (as he chose to express it) “ in common with the gnats and ants."
JAMES SHEGKINS, a native of Shrandorf, in Wirtemburg, who lived in the latter part of the sixteenth century, seems to have been a character more after the taste of Anthony. This learned German, having lost his sight in early life, was so little sensible of his privation, that he refused to be couched by an oculist who assured him that the operation would prove successful, in order, as he said, not to be obliged to see many things that might appear odious and ridiculous -a decision not altogether absurd for one whose taste and habits of life had been so thoroughly assimilated to his condition, and who had found such unbounded resources of pleasure in ranging the fields of science by methods of his own invention. He taught philosophy and medicine with eminent success at Tubengen, for a term of about thirteen years. He died in 1587, leaving many treatises on different subjects in philosophy, medicine, and controversy.
To the preceding we may add that of the COUNT DE Hagan, who was born in the beginning of the seventeenth century. Having entered the army at the early age of twelve years, he lost his left eye at seventeen; he still, however, pursued his profession with unabated ardor, and distinguished himself by many acts of brilliant courage. At last, when about to be sent into Portugal with the rank of field-marshal, he
was seized with an illness which deprived him of sight in his remaining eye, in the thirty-eighth year of his age. He had always been attached to mathe. matics, and his misfortune being no impediment in the pursuit of this science, he now earnestly devoted himself to the study of geometry, with a view to improve the system of fortification, on which subject he wrote an interesting and important work. During a period of twenty years, subsequent to his blindness, he gave to the world a variety of publications, among the most important of which may be mentioned Geometrical Theorems and Astronomical Tables. He was also the author of a rare book called “ An Historical and Geographical account of the River Amazon,” which is remarkable as containing a chart, asserted to have been made by himself, after he became blind.
The study of mathematics seems in every enlight ened age to have occupied the most ingenious and master minds, and no science has revealed to the world more essential facts, or opened more sublime fields of contemplation. In the development of this sublime branch of human learning, the blind may claim, we think without arrogance, a full share of honor. In all the annals of self-educated and ingenious characters, there is none more justly claiming our admiration than Dr. NichoLAS SAUNDERSON, who we shall next briefly notice.
This great man was born at Thurlston, in Yorkshire, in 1682, and when but twelve months of age he