Dr. Jacob Bolotin, the Blind Doctor

(January 3, 1888 - April 1, 1924)

The Blind Doctor is the moving and powerful story of a blind man who fought ignorance and prejudice to become one of the most respected physicians in Chicago. Everyone who reads Dr. Jacob Bolotin's story will learn that blindness is no barrier to a full life and great accomplishments.
   --Dr. Marc Maurer, Past President of the National Federation of the Blind.

In the biography, The Blind Doctor: The Jacob Bolotin Story, author Rosalind Perlman tells the fascinating story of Dr. Jacob Bolotin, the first man born totally blind to become fully licensed to practice medicine. Born in 1888 to a poor immigrant family in Chicago, Jacob Bolotin fought prejudice and misconceptions about the capabilities of blind people in order to win acceptance to medical school and then into the medical profession. He was one of the most respected physicians in Chicago in the early twentieth century, particularly well known for his expertise on diseases of the heart and lungs. His remarkable story had faded into obscurity until the 2007 release of this important and inspiring book, which is based on the memories of the author's husband, Alfred Perlman, who was the nephew of Dr. Bolotin's wife and lived with the Bolotins for several years when he was a boy.

Dr. Bolotin was also one of the first to raise awareness of the true capabilities of blind people. He did this through his many public speaking engagements. He used his celebrity status in Chicago and throughout the Midwest to champion the rights of the blind to education and employment with full integration into society. Interested in young people in general and blind youth in particular, Dr. Bolotin established the first Boy Scout troop consisting entirely of blind boys and served as its first leader. This is how his contemporaries saw him:

It is one of the most amazing instances of mind triumphant over physical handicaps that the world has ever known... [Dr. Bolotin] will rank with Helen Keller as one of the wonderful blind persons of history.
   --Philadelphia Inquirer 1914

Given Dr. Bolotin's belief that the blind are only limited by their own ambition and imagination, the National Federation of the Blind, which holds the same belief, is the natural organization to bestow this award in Dr. Bolotin's name.

In conjunction with the publication of The Blind Doctor: The Jacob Bolotin Story by Blue Point Books, the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) launched the 'Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award for the Blind' at its 2007 national convention in Atlanta, Georgia. The first awards totaled $100,000 and were made in 2008 to those who made a significant impact within the blind community. The book's author, Rosalind Perlman, left a bequest to the Santa Barbara Foundation to publish The Blind Doctor and to establish an endowment, the Alfred & Rosalind Perlman Trust, for this important annual award.

Belief in oneself is the key to living life as an independent, productive blind person; without self-confidence, no amount of rehabilitation training will make a blind person self-sufficient. Dr. Jacob Bolotin's inspiring story sets an example for all blind people, because he believed in himself and found ways to overcome obstacles at a time when the social, legal, and technological resources available to the blind today did not exist.
  --Dr. Joanne Wilson, founder of the Louisiana Center for the Blind

Sponsored by the Alfred & Rosalind Perlman Trust
Presented by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB)

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