Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Haüy

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Haüy, (1) René-Just, mineralogist; b. at Saint-Just (Oise), 28 Feb., 1743; d. at Paris, 3 June, 1822. His father was a poor weaver and he owed his early education to the monks of the Premonstratensian Abbey of saint-Just, who were struck by his talent and piety and his predilection for ecclesiastical chant. Their prior sent him to Paris, where he served for a time as chorister and then was admitted to the College of Navarre. After a successful course of study he was made one of the teaching staff. A few years later he was ordained priest and became Professor at the college of Cardinal Lemoine. Up to this time literature had been his chosen study but a friendship for one of his fellow-professors induced him to take up botany. His interest was, however, more powerfully awakened in mineralogy by some lectures of Daubenton which he happened to hear at the Jardin du Roi. The crystalline structure of minerals appealed to him more than their chemical or geological characteristics. It is said that while examining the crystal collection of Du Croisset, he had the misfortune to drop a fine specimen of calc-spar which broke into pieces. This accident proved the beginning of those exhaustive studies which made him the father of modern crystallography. He examined the fragments and was struck by the forms which they assumed. Many specimens were studied and he found that crystals of the same composition possessed the same internal nucleus, even though their external forms differed. He also established the law of symmetry and was able to show that the forms of crystal are perfectly definite and based an fixed laws.

The merit of his discoveries was early recognized by Daubenton and Laplace. They urged him to make them known to the Academy of Sciences, which admitted him membership. Besides his researches in crystallography, Haüy was also one of the pioneers in the development of pyro-electricity. After twenty years' service, he retired from his professorship at the college of Cardinal Lemoine, to devote himself exclusively to his favourite science. During the Revolution he suffered much in common with other ecclesiastics who refused to take the oath demanded of them. His papers were seized, has collection of crystals scattered, and he himself was imprisoned at the Seminaire de Saint-Firmin. Nothing, however, could disturb his equanimity. He continued his studies as before, and it was only with difficulty that his colleague and former pupil, Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, could induce him to accept the release he had procured for him. In 1794 he was appointed curator of the Cabinet des Mines, and in the same year he became professor of physics at the Ecole Normale. After the death of Dolmieu he was appointed to the chair of mineralogy at the Museum of Natural History, in Paris, where he lectured with much success and materially increased the collections. After the Restoration he was deprived of his professorship and spent his last days in poverty. His courage and cheerfulness, however, never deserted him. His life was simple and his character lofty, and he ever remained faithful to his priestly duties. Few teachers have so thoroughly gained the affection of their students and the esteem and homage of their contemporaries. Napoleon held him in admiration and made him honorary canon of Notre Dame and one of the first members of the Legion of Honour.

Haüy was the author of many important works, the chief being "Essai d'une Théorie sur la Structure des Cristaux" (Paris, 1784); "Exposition raisonnée de la Théorie de l'Electricité et du Magnetisme" (Paris, 1787) "Traité de Minéralogie" (Paris, 1801); "Traité élémentaire de Physique" (Paris, 1803); "Traité de Cristallographie" (Paris, 1817).

CUVIER, Recuil des Eloges historiques lus dans les seances publiques de l'Institut royal de France (Paris, 1827), III, 123 -175; Walsh, Catholic Churchmen in Science (Philadelphia, 1906).

Henry M. Brock.


(2) Valentin Haüy, founder of the first school for the blind, and known under the endearing name of "Father and Apostle of the Blind"; b. at Saint-Just, in the department of Picardy, France, 13 November, 1745: d. at Paris, 19 March, 1822. He received his early education with his elder brother, Réne, at the abbey school of the Premonstratensians, not far from Saint-Just. Valentin never became a priest. After his preliminary studies he went to Paris, where he applied himself to calligraphy and to modern languages. These he taught for a time, to support himself, until he became attached to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as an interpreter of state papers and foreign despatches. The inspiration to devote the remainder of his life to the education of the blind came to Haüy in 1771 after witnessing at a fair, in one of the suburbs of Paris, burlesque performance in which the blindness of sightless beggars was made the object of ridicule and general merriment. "I shall substitute truth for mockery", he said to himself; "I shall teach the blind to read and to write, and give them books printed by themselves." This was no empty boast. The inspiration to do for the blind what the Abbé de l'Epée was then doing for the deaf and dumb became an accomplished fact thirteen years later. In June, 1784 Haüy sought his first pupil at the church door of Saint-Germain des Pres. Francois Lesueur, who was a beggar and blind from birth, was then sixteen years old. Haüy prevailed upon him to give up begging by promising to support his parents. Before the fall of 1786 Haüy had made the discovery of what had only dimly been foreshadowed, the art of printing books in relief for the blind. This discovery, the undisputed triumph of Haüy's ingenuity, solved for all time the most difficult problem in the education of the blind and, with the foundation of the first school for the blind, led to a movement which has resulted in the social and intellectual rehabilitation of the blind througthout the whole civilized world. By 5 December, 1786, Haüy's pupils had embossed from movable letterpress type his "Essai sur l'éducation des aveugles" the first book ever published for the blind (see S.V., EDUCATION OF THE BLIND, V, 308). On 26 December of the same year, twenty-four of Haüy's pupils gave at Versailles in the presence of Louis XVI and the royal family an exhibition of their attainments in reading, writing, geography, arithmetic, handcraft work, and orchestral music. With the patronage of the king, Haüy had also secured for his school the approbation of the Academy of Science and Arts and the support of the Philanthropic Society. During the French Revolution and the subsequent disorganization of the Philanthropic Society, Haüy's school lacked its wonted support. Although the National Assembly, and later on the Convention, had declared it a national institution and had voted for it an annual subsidy, yet so scanty was the help accorded to it that it barely survived the Reign of Terror. In 1801, on a report to Napoleon from Chaptal, Minister of the Interior, the school was merged with the Hospice Quinze-Vingts. A year later, Napoleon relieved Haüy of the direction of the school and granted him a pension of 2000 francs. ln February, 1802, Haüy started a private school in the rue Sainte-Avoye. Through lack of funds, however, the "Musée des Aveugles", his new foundation, never attained much prominence. In 1806, on the invitation of Alexander I, Haüy left for St. Petersburg where he founded, in 1808, a school for the blind, on the model of the National Institution in Paris. On his way to Russia, Haüy had an interview at Charlottenburg with Frederick William III of Prussia. He prevailed upon the king to found an institution for the blind at Berlin, and to appoint Dr. Zeune as its first director. From his arrival at St. Petersburg, 9 Sept., 1806, until his departure, Haüy's devotion and zeal in doing for the blind of Russia what he had done for those of his own native country were put to many a severe test, and rewarded with but scanty gratitude. Weakened with age and infirmity, Haüy wished to die in France. He left St. Petersburg in 1817. On his return to Paris he went to live with his brother, the Abbé Haüy, in whose arms he peacefully expired.

The publications of Valentin Haüy are his "Essai sur l'éducation des aveugles" (Paris, 1786), and "Mémoire historique sur les télégraphes" (Paris, 1810).

DE LA SIZERANNE, Les aveugles par un aveugle (Paris, 1904); MELL, Encyktopadisches Handbuch des Blindenwesens (Leipzig, 1900); GUILBEAU, Histoire de l'instruction nationale des jeunes aveugles (Paris, 1907).

Joseph M. Stadelman.