Invention Helps Blind People Detect Light

Picture Of Mary Jameson Using The OptophoneEdmund Edward Fournier d’Albe was an Irish writer, inventor, and physicist. On June 25, 1912, d’Albe demonstrated a new invention at the Optical Society Convention in London. He called the machine an “exploring optophone,” he contended that his creation helps blind people detect light or “hear” light instead.

The optophone houses a cell that relies on the photoelectric properties of selenium. A pair of headphones allowed users to listen for modulations in tone as the cell detected light; it allowed listeners to distinguish between light and dark spaces.

d’Albe claimed that the optophone was a new mobility tool that would help blind people safely explore their environments. The device could even detect the light and dark spaces of letters on paper. Mary Jameson started using the optophone in 1918, and she could read 60 words per minute by 1972.

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“A Century Ago, the Optophone Allowed Blind People to Hear the Printed Word”

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