The 20 Biggest Celebrities Who Are Blind
Blindness is a serious impairment. However, numerous blind people have managed to become famous for one reason or another despite it. Some of them are historical figures.
In contrast, others are alive and well in modern times. Their accomplishments run the gamut of the human experience.
Here are 20 of the biggest celebrities who are blind:
20. Haru Kobayashi
Haru Kobayashi isn’t particularly well-known in Japan or the rest of the world. Still, she merits mention because she was either the last or one of the last of the goze. For those curious, the term refers to blind Japanese women who worked as itinerant musicians for the most part. It was a harsh livelihood, but it was a livelihood. The end of the goze meant the loss of much of their repertoire.
Kobayashi lived until 2005, meaning she played an important role in preserving the still-existing material. She received a biopic called The Last Goze just a short while ago. Unfortunately, Asian Movie Pulse doesn’t seem to have a good opinion of the movie.
19. Jack Vance
Jack Vance is a somewhat notable figure among speculative fiction fans. That is because he wrote The Dying Earth and other works during a career that spanned more than five decades. Thanks to that, Vance had a fair amount of influence on those who followed in his footsteps. In particular, his works are why Dungeons & Dragons magic users have to memorize their spells before casting them each time.
The man was blind in a legal sense by the 1980s, but he had vision problems before that point. This was shown by how he had to memorize an eye chart to enlist in the Merchant Marine during World War Two.
18. John of Bohemia
The Battle of Crecy saw the English delivering a crushing blow to the French during the Edwardian phase of the Hundred Years’ War. It enabled the capture of Calais, so it should come as no surprise to learn that it is a somewhat well-known event in the English-speaking world. For proof, look no further than its description in the World History Encyclopedia and other English-language sources.
With that said, John of Bohemia was undoubtedly one of the better-known participants in the battle. For starters, he was the King of Bohemia. However, John preferred international politics rather than ruling his realm.
As such, he declared for the King of France when the Hundred Years’ War broke out. John decided to die fighting at the Battle of Crecy despite the fact he had been blind for a decade by that point. Supposedly, his retainers had to guide him into the action by tying their horses together. As a result, every single one of them died fighting alongside their king.
17. Aldous Huxley
Aldous Huxley was one of the most famous English thinkers of the 20th century. However, he was quite capable of communicating his thoughts to the general population in an interesting way. After all, Huxley was the one who wrote Brave New World, which depicted his idea of a dystopia.
He is a bit of an edge case for this list. Huxley contracted a disease that left him blind for a while as a teenager. That prevented him from becoming a doctor. Furthermore, that made it impossible for him to sign up for the First World War. Still, Huxley did recover some of his eyesight later on, so he wasn’t 100 percent blind.
16. Galileo Galilei
Galileo Galilei is famous for being a heliocentrist who challenged the geocentric orthodoxy. In truth, he wasn’t quite the martyr for science that popular recollection makes him out to be.
The real story is more interesting, though Smithsonian points out we aren’t 100 percent sure why everything went down the way it did. Regardless, Galileo did go blind in his old age, thus making him more than qualified for this list.
15. Helen Adams Keller
Helen Adams Keller was one of the greatest advocates for disability rights of the 20th century. Moreover, she pushed for everything from labor rights to women’s suffrage, though some of her views haven’t aged quite as well as their counterparts. Still, Keller was an extremely accomplished individual, particularly since she did everything while being a deafblind individual.
14. Joseph Pulitzer
Joseph Pulitzer made two great contributions that have proven to be ironic. One, his donation to Columbia University made the Pulitzer Prize possible. Two, his competition with William Randolph Hearst spurred the popularization of yellow journalism in the late 19th century. Late in life, Pulitzer suffered various health problems, which included blindness.
Fans of the Black Eyed Peas should have no problem recognizing apl.de.ap, one of the founding members of the hip-hop group. He suffered from nystagmus, which is vision-impairing eye movement.
As such, apl.de.ap was considered legally blind because of the combination of his nystagmus and his nearsightedness. His condition wasn’t corrected until 2012, which was long after he had already found success in the music industry.
12. Jorge Luis Borges
Jorge Luis Borges was an Argentine writer of poems, essays, and short stories. His eyesight became worse and worse over time, with the result that he was completely blind by the age of 55.
Some people have suggested that his blindness contributed to his imagination, thus boosting the quality of his works. Whatever the case, Borges was known on the international stage.
11. Claude Monet
Claude Monet has a decent claim to being the greatest of the Impressionists. Indeed, the art movement was named for one of his paintings called Impression, Sunrise. Monet was diagnosed with cataracts in 1912. Unsurprisingly, that had a huge impact on his art, which was so tied to his impressions of things.
The man didn’t get cataract surgery until 1923. That also had a huge impact on his art, which made sense because he continued to suffer various vision-related issues from that point forward.
10. José Monserrate Feliciano García
People may or may not recognize Jose Feliciano’s face. Chances are good that they recognize his voice. After all, Feliciano was the one who wrote “Feliz Navidad,” which NPR points out remains as charming as ever. The Puerto Rican singer didn’t go blind. Instead, he was born blind because of glaucoma.
9. Andrea Angel Bocelli
Speaking of blind singers, Andrea Bocelli is another singer who was born blind because of glaucoma. In his case, he is famous for popularizing opera and classical music, which is much easier said than done. Bocelli is best known for his vocals, but he is also a capable instrumentalist who can play both the piano and the flute.
8. Leonhard Euler
People who remember math class might remember Euler’s formula. Britannica states there are not one but two of these, both of which came from Leonhard Euler. The man is considered the single greatest mathematician of the 18th century, which is more than enough to make him one of the greatest mathematicians ever.
Euler lost his ability to see from his right eye for unknown reasons. Later, he lost his ability to see from his left eye because of cataracts. Reportedly, the loss of his vision didn’t slow down his mathematical output, which says much about his tenacity in his chosen field.
7. John Milton
John Milton wrote a sequel to Paradise Lost called Paradise Regained. Despite this, he is overwhelmingly known because of the former rather than the latter. Amusingly, William Blake once described Milton as someone who improved the reputation of the Devil without meaning to, which was a fair but still stinging piece of criticism.
Traditionally, the Devil was seen in a somewhat pathetic light. He wasn’t someone people could sympathize with. Milton intended to depict the Devil as a fully-evil figure deserving of contempt and nothing but contempt. The issue is that many people have interpreted the character as a hero, even if he isn’t necessarily a good person.
As such, just about every modern work that presents the Devil as a psychologically-complicated figure can trace its roots to Milton to some extent. In any case, the man was blind by his mid-40s. Due to this, he had to write Paradise Lost via diction.
6. Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder became a music sensation as a child and has continued being one ever since. That is extremely impressive because he has been active for six decades and counting. During that time, he has been a huge influence on R&B musicians and their counterparts in other genres of music.
Strictly speaking, Stevie Wonder wasn’t born blind. The issue was that he was born six weeks premature. Thanks to that, he needed oxygen therapy to survive, which caused the detachment of his retinas.
5. Ray Charles
Ray Charles was another music legend. His career started in 1947, meaning he started earlier than Stevie Wonder by more than a decade. Unsurprisingly, Charles was also extremely influential, as shown by how he is considered one of the pioneers of soul music.
He became blind when he was still a child. The exact cause is unknown because he came from an impoverished background. Still, the most popular theory is that it was glaucoma.
4. Harriet Tubman
Harriet Tubman wasn’t quite blind. Still, she had vision impairment because an overseer hit her head with a metal weight when she was still a child.
Thanks to that, Tubman suffered lifelong consequences. Despite this, Tubman went on to do remarkable things. She didn’t just escape slavery. Tubman took incredible risks to help others do the same.
On top of that, she served as a spy and a scout for the Union Army when the American Civil War broke out. Emancipation wasn’t the end of her political advocacy.
Subsequently, Tubman turned to women’s suffrage, which she continued to champion until her death a short while before women received the right to vote in the United States.
3. Abraham Nemeth
Abraham Nemeth was a mathematician active in the 20th and 21st centuries. He was born blind. However, he would go on to develop Nemeth braille, which is a more efficient system by which blind people can write about mathematical matters.
As such, Nemeth’s contribution was immense. Something that shouldn’t be surprising to anyone who has ever tried writing about mathematics using anything other than the combination of numbers and other symbols specifically dedicated to that purpose.
2. Louis Braille
Naturally, Louis Braille gets a place on this list. He was born in the early 19th century, a time with much poorer medical capabilities than what we have.
As such, Braille lost the use of one eye when he accidentally stabbed it when playing with one of his father’s tools. Then, his wound became infected, which led to him losing vision in his other eye.
Even so, Braille received an education before becoming an educator for other blind people. His experiences led to him developing the writing system named for him, which sees use for almost all languages in the Latin alphabet and many that are not.
It isn’t 100 percent clear whether Homer was a historical individual. Certainly, the ancient Greeks believed he was, though some of their stories about the man were more believable than others.
Unfortunately, if Homer was a historical individual, he lived in early Archaic Greece. As such, there isn’t much hope of digging up more reliable information.
The Greeks quite literally developed a new writing system during Homer’s approximate lifetime because they had lost their last one during the Dark Ages.
With that said, Homer is well-known and will remain well-known for the foreseeable future. That is because he is the traditional writer of the Iliad and the Odyssey, the two greatest works of the Classical canon. In turn, that makes them the foundation of the western canon.
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