To Infinity and Beyond: Abe Nemeth’s Legacy

Deborah Kendrick, braille enthusiast and opinion columnist for The Columbus Dispatch, wrote an impassioned tribute to mathematician Abraham Nemeth, who died Wednesday, October 2, 2013.

“A certain kind of time changed the channel on Wednesday,” Kendrick wrote. “Abraham Nemeth, two weeks shy of his 95th birthday, died. Abe NemethHis loss is being mourned and commemorated throughout our country and beyond. Because of the Nemeth code and the brilliant example of the humble man who devised it, blind young people today do not hesitate to pursue passions in science, technology, engineering or mathematics.

“For five years, I have been working on the biography of Abraham Nemeth. I have spent hours in his Southfield, Mich. apartment, listening to his memories, his jokes, his still-amazing piano playing.

“As sharp and brilliant at age 94 as any ordinary mortal one-third his age, his reservoir of memories and jokes seemed bottomless. ‘Will that one get in the book?’ he asked me more than once after regaling me with a joke or pun, limerick or riddle. He loved playing with words almost as much as numbers.

“Surrounded by his braille books — Jewish prayers, mathematics, philosophy and economics — and his numerous awards and honors (a bust of Louis Braille among his favorites), he quoted his beloved grandfather to me regarding the availability of time.

“‘What do you mean you don’t have time?’ his grandfather chided. ‘You have all the time God created.’”

Abraham Nemeth found the time to invent the internationally recognized Braille Code for Mathematics and Science Notation that forever changed the assumption that complex mathematics and science was beyond the reach of blind individuals. Read the full tribute, “Deborah Kendrick commentary: Mathematician opened many doors for the blind.”

3 thoughts on “To Infinity and Beyond: Abe Nemeth’s Legacy

  1. Pingback: Blog Round-up | Vision Impairment Info

  2. Last week, I posted the following comments on several LinkedIn discussion groups, along with some links about Dr. Nemeth. I thought it might be appropriate to repost my comments below.
    Before I post these links,, I’d like to add some comments about this exceptional and amazing individual. My first job in the assistive technology industry was working as a support representative for blazie Engineering, a company known for revolutionary products such as the Braille ‘n speak, Braille blazer and braille Lite. During my time working at this company, I had the honor and privilege to speak with Dr. Nemeth on a regular basis. He called with a variety of questions and he was one of the few customers who sometimes was able to stump me in dealing with complex Braille formatting issues. Dr. Nemeth was a storehouse of witty jokes and would often entertain me with them during our calls. He also wrote many poems of his own, some of which he shared with me. I don’t know if he bothered to write them down, but if he didn’t this would indeed be a tremendous loss. Once, while I was on the phone assisting him, I thought of an old radio show called “Can You Top This” where contestants would, if my memory is correct, have to tell jokes on a specific topic. I casually said, “Dr. Nemeth, you should have been on the show “Can you top this” and, to my surprise, he said, “I was” and told me of a time when he managed to make a guest appearance on this show. Not surprisingly, he remembered the joke he told on this show and shared it with me.
    I was honored to see a side of dr. Nemeth which many people might not have seen, and his passing is an incalculable loss to us all. May God rest his soul. I hope that there is a special place in heaven for this brilliant man who made such a special contribution to our lives.

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