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The Man: William Moon LLD(1818-1894)

When Dr.William Moon LLD died suddenly on October 9th 1894, Brighton lost a leading citizen of world reputation. Locally, William Moon was a pastor to Brighton's visually handicapped population. Irrespective of their faith he cared equally for the spiritual and social welfare of his fellow blind Brightonians.On the world stagein the roles of Inventor, Teacher, Preacher and Publisher he had been honoured for his work.

On his travels in America in 1882 he met President Chester A Arthur. Many years earlier the Duchess of Gloucester visiting Moon at his home had wept because her father the late King Gerge III had never enjoyed the benefit of Moon's invention. Today his name is virtually unknown in the town.which he adopted but is, curiously, to be found sprinkled about the world wide web.

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Image of Broken Plaque For almost 50 years Moon made 104-106 Queens Road, Brighton his home and business address. The Moon Printing Works operated there until 1960 producing books and magazines in Moon's tactile typography designed to be read by touch. During Moon's lifetime books in 471 languages were dispatched to no fewer than 5 continents. Mr. Moon persued the enlighted policy of employing blind workers in his enterprise.

By 1839 William Moon of Horsmonden, Kent was totally blind and living with his widowed mother and sister Mary in Brighton. He taught the embossed reading codes devised by Frere, Lucas, Alston and Gall to local blind boys who found them difficult to learn

While still in his early twenties Moon married Link to Mary Ann Caudle  Moon CardMary Ann Caudle and with her support embarked on the most dynamic 5 years of his life. Aged 26 and living in cramped accommodation with two infants William Moon devised a new embossed reading code for his own students. His tools were a wooden hand press and paper. His potential audience were blind people throughout the world eager to share in the Victorian enthusiasm for self-improvement. Of the great number of early experiments with tactile reading and writing codes for the blind, today only the work of William Moon co-exists with that of his more famous French contemporary Louis Braille. Image of Moon's "Factory"

Moon's "Factory"

The Moon Alphabet consisted of raised simplified forms of Roman letters suitable for reading with the fingers. His students quickly got to grips with the new system but his school commitee would not financially support its development. His first benfactor came forward in 1847. Moon founded the first of a dizzying number of societies and instutions to further his educational and social aims. The adaptation of recognizable traditional letter forms remains a strength of Moon's system.

Moon had twin objectives of furthering literacy for the blind while improving their access to the Bible. Reading sacred scriptures was a goal dear to the heart of many Victorian educational reformers. New technologies do not thrive without subsidy and for William Moon support came "by the grace of God" from the blind philanthropists, Sir Charles Lowther who became his life-long friend.

Moon recorded in his Autobiography that through visiting the Great Exhibition of 1851 he learned that his techniques had made more rapid progress for blind welfare than any undertaken before. By the mid 1870's Moon was established as the national teaching standard for the blind and had been translated into languages as diverse as Irish and Chinese.

However, in 1870, the first UK Braille publication appeared and the high point of Moon's alphabet had been reached. The first Braille magazine appeared in 1881 with the prophetic title Progress. Moons priorities still feel modern today. He encouraged local commitees to employ home teacher for blind children to prepare them to enter mainstream schools. Where hometeaching was praticed he encouraged the establishment of free lending libraries for embossed literature. A report in 18xx revealed that of 18 Home Teaching Schemes studied 17 employed blind teachers.

Wiliam Moon was supported in his work by his family and many able volunteers. His social welfare work is carried on today by The Brighton Society for the Blind who have named their Hollingdean headquarters in his honour. The Royal National Institute for the Blind are examining the new possibilities which computer technologies offer to Moon' alphabet.

The New York Institute for Special Education's Reading Codes for the Blind page can be found at http://www.nyise.org/blind/gallmoon/htm

"God gave me the talent of blindness to use for His glory. Without blindness I should never have been able to see the needs of the blind."

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