The Story of Blindness by Gabriel Farrell
Cambridge, Ma. : Harvard University Press, 1956. Inscribed first edition by Gabriel Farrell on the flyleaf. Hardcover. 270 pages ; 22 cm. $4.50 dust jacket with two 1' tears to dust jacket front and shelf wear to edges. Pages are clean and unmarked. Binding is firm.
The story of blindness is a hopeful one. From the earliest times blindness has been recognized as not only a medical, but a social problem; and in the last two centuries this recognition has increased even further. Dr. Farrell, who was for over twenty years director of the world-famous Perkins Institution, here approaches his subject historically.
In the earliest times, some of the blind enjoyed a favored social position as bards and historians because their highly developed memories were able to retain epic and historical records during ages when written accounts were incomplete. The less gifted among the blind were able to survive only through charity, which was long recognized as a way of discharging society's obligation to the sightless. Later, steps were taken to set up schools for the blind, and the development of these institutions is given in detail, from the eighteenth century to the present. Dr. Farrell recounts the international developments in a form of writing for the blind as exemplified in the work of the phenomenal Louis Braille and others, and he tells the story of the blind in this country by describing the work of Samuel Gridley Howe and his successors to educate the sightless and to integrate them with the seeing.
In later chapters Dr. Farrell shows how social responsibility for the blind has been recognized through special legislation in the United States, and describes the criticisms that have been made of the benefits for the blind in the Social Security Act, in the analogous state laws, and in the Federal Government's provision for war-blinded veterans. On the international scene, his attention turns to the statistical and public-health work begun by the League of Nations and continued in the United Nations.
Not the least of the problems confronting society in its dealings with the blind are: who are the blind? and, how can future blindness be prevented? Dr. Farrell discusses the schemes evolved in various countries to determine where sight ends and blindness begins; and he concludes his book by describing the recent advances made in combating such diseases as trachoma and "babies' sore eyes." On the other hand, he warns of the continuing threats of glaucoma, cataracts, hereditary blindness, and retrolental fibroplasia — this last a form of blindness in infants that has recently shown marked growth in this country.
Despite the problems that still lie ahead, however, Dr. Farrell concludes with these words for the more than six million sightless in the world today: "But with the progress that has already been made, it may not be too much to hope that medical research combined with physical rehabilitation and social acceptance will bring fulfillment of the words of the Old Testament prophet Isaiah: T will bring the blind by a way that they knew not. I will lead them in paths which they have not known. I will make darkness light before them and crooked places straight. These things will I do and not forsake them.' "
In addition to his twenty years as Director of the Perkins Institution, Dr. Farrell is a trustee ol the American Foundation for the Blind, a member of the Executive Committee of the American Foundation for Overseas Blind, a Director of the Foundation for Vision, and a consultant to the National Society for the Prevention of Blindness. In 1950 he made a survey, Social Aspects of Blind Children, for the United Nations, and he is Honorary Chairman of the International Conference of Educators of Blind Youth.
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