John Denison Russ, an American physician, born at Chebacco (now Essex), Mass., Sept. 1, 1801. He graduated at Yale college in 1823, studied medicine at home and in Europe, and began to practise in New York in 1826. In 1827 he went to Greece with a cargo of supplies from Boston, and remained there three years, superintending for 15 months a hospital which he had established at Poros. After his return to New York he began at his own expense, early in 1832, the instruction of six blind boys, and was appointed the same year superintendent of the New York blind institution. While here he invented a phonetic alphabet for the blind, consisting of 41 characters, sufficiently like the Roman letters to be read by any one, to which he added 22 prefixes, suffixes, etc. He also simplified the mathematical characters for the blind, using four instead of ten, and printed maps for them from raised designs, using wave lines for water, etc, instead of the plan of marking the boundaries with a cord. The maps, with some slight change, are still in use, but the figures have been superseded by Braille's system. (See Blind.) The phonetic system of writing was never generally introduced. Dr. Russ took part in founding the New York prison association, of which he was successively the secretary and vice president.
From 1851 to 1858 he was superintendent of the juvenile asylum. He has also been engaged in other philanthropic enterprises, among them a house of employment for women, especially for those desirous of reforming from a vicious life, which was established in 1850 under the charge of his wife and daughter.