Did you know that Abraham Nemeth was born today in 1918? As a child he loved math, but was told that he would never be able to be a mathematician because he was blind and could not see the equations being written. He studied psychology in college, but later returned to follow his dreams. As he was studying, he created his own Braille characters to represent the symbols used in math. Abraham Nemeth also developed a standard set of rules and vocabulary used to read mathematical equations out loud. Nemeth’s work gave blind students the opportunity to learn math and to become scientists and mathematicians.
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Abraham Nemeth was born blind, but his parents and family encouraged him to use all his senses to live life to his fullest. His advice to parents with blind children was to expect from those children the same thing you would expect from a child with sight.
Abraham Nemeth earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in psychology, but found that he also could not find work in the psychology field. His wife encouraged him to pursue his dreams saying, “Wouldn’t you rather be an unemployed mathematician than an unemployed psychologist?”
Abraham Nemeth’s wife, Florence Weissman, helped him develop a way for him to write on paper and a blackboard so he could communicate with the sighted students he taught. While initially reluctant to hire him because of his disability, Nemeth proved that he was a capable mathematician and his reputation as a teacher grew.
In 1952, Abraham Nemeth’s system was published as the Nemeth Braille Code for Mathematics and Science Notation. It is also known as Nemeth Code or Nemeth Braille. It is one of many systems used around the world to communicate mathematics.
Abraham Nemeth also helped to invent a Braille slide rule to use for mathematical computations as well as other scientific instruments such as a calculator that read the result of a calculation out loud.
The standard used to read mathematical equations is called “MathSpeak”.
Abraham Nemeth also taught himself to play the piano. He was skilled enough that he earned money during college playing in dance bands.
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