Sir Arthur Pearson

Black and White Photo of Sir Arthur Pearson

Cyril Arthur Pearson was born in Somerset, England, and educated at Hampshire’s prestigious Winchester College. He began his career as a journalist and formed his own publishing business in 1890, at the age of 24. Over the years he established a small but respectable newspaper empire, beginning with his own periodical, Pearson’s Weekly, and eventually including The Evening Standard and the Daily Express. Later in life, Pearson became a close friend of Lord Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts movement, and published its magazine, The Scout.

He remained active as a writer and published books on such diverse subjects as tourism, fortune-telling and dreams under the pseudonym of “Dr. P.R.S. Foli.”

Pearson was also known for his philanthropic activities, and in 1892 he founded the Fresh Air Fund (still operating today under the name Pearson’s Holiday Fund), a charitable organization which enabled children from disadvantaged backgrounds to take part in outdoor recreational activities.

In 1903 he organized Britain’s Tariff Reform Movement, and served as its first chairman.

In 1908, however, he began to lose his sight due to glaucoma, and by 1913 he was completely blind. Unable to continue at the helm of his newspaper interests, he instead turned his attention once again to philanthropic concerns, and became the president of the National Institution for the Blind (later the Royal National Institute for the Blind, or RNIB).

Two years later, in 1915, he founded St. Dunstan’s Home for soldiers who had been blinded in the First World War. Rather than being simply a charitable organization, however, it offered vocational training to enable the soldiers to regain their independence and return to the workforce.

Canadian soldiers who had lost their vision while serving overseas were sent to St. Dunstan’s for rehabilitation before returning to Canada, and two of CNIB’s seven eventual founders, Edwin Baker and Alexander Viets, became good friends with Pearson during their time there. As a result, Pearson had a hand in founding CNIB, and served as its first honorary president.

Sir Arthur Pearson died in 1921, at the age of 55, after falling in his bath.

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