Leaders and Legends: Berthold Lowenfeld
Hall of Fame for Leaders and Legends of the Blindness Field
Berthold Lowenfeld (1901-1994) was born in Linz, Austria. He graduated from the University of Vienna in 1927 with a Ph.D. in Psychology. In 1922, while still a student, he began teaching at the Jewish School for the Blind, Hohe Warte, in Vienna where he worked until 1930, when he was awarded a Rockefeller Fellowship to study the education of blind children in the United States. Prior to leaving for the U.S., he married his beloved Greta, and they often referred to their year abroad as their "honeymoon."
In 1938, the Lowenfelds move permanently to the United States with Kathryn Maxfield, an educator working for the American Foundation for the Blind, as their sponsor. They settled in New York, and soon both the Lowenfelds were working part-time for the New York Institute for the Education of the Blind, a residential school in the Bronx.
Shortly thereafter, Robert Irwin, the Director of the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), offered Berthold Lowenfeld a research position in order to study the feasibility of "talking books" for the blind. Subsequently, he became the Director of Research for AFB, a position he held from 1939 until 1949. His research into talking books, needs of preschool blind children, and the attributes of local day school programs for blind children were among his most profound and lasting contributions during this time. From 1944 until 1949, he was also teaching university courses in education of blind children for Teacher's College, Columbia University. In 1948 he served as president of the National Braille Club.
From 1949 until his retirement in 1964, Berthold Lowenfeld served as the Superintendent of the California School for the Blind. He made a deep and lasting impression on the characteristics and responsibilities of schools for the blind which is still very evident today. He also became the most vocal and persistent advocate for blind children having the opportunity to attend their local schools. He never viewed his role with a school for the blind and his advocacy for local school placements as being contradictory. Rather, he constantly reminded his colleagues that if they assessed children well, determined the environment in which they would best learn, and provided the appropriate resources, local schools and residential schools would both flourish.
Berthold Lowenfeld's contributions to the literature on blindness are known and deeply respected throughout the world. Two of his books, Our Blind Children, and The Changing Status of the Blind, are classics in the field and timeless in relevance. This exceptional writer has additionally given us three other books, over 100 articles, numerous book chapters, and many other documents. At the 1992 AER International Conference, he was the recipient of the distinguished C. Warren Bledsoe Award to recognize a lifetime achievement of outstanding contribution to the blindness professional literature.
About the Hall of Fame
The Hall of Fame for Leaders and Legends of the Blindness Field is dedicated to preserving, honoring, and promoting the tradition of excellence manifested by the specific individuals inducted into the Hall of Fame and through the history of outstanding services provided to people who are blind or visually impaired.
These significant professional colleagues of the recent and distant past are a fascinating cross-section of heroes and pioneers who not only shaped our rich history, philosophy, knowledge and skills, but also give us insights into current and future challenges. These giants shared their personal lives and showed us strategies to ensure that services for blind persons remain unique and specialized. Enjoy their lives and contributions and reflect upon your own list of heroes.
Hall of Fame: Leaders and Legends of the Blindness Field is a project of the entire field of blindness. It is curated by the American Printing House for the Blind, a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization.
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