This remarkable woman, who lived from 1870-1952, has had a great influence on educational thought and reform, despite the fact that she trained originally as a medical doctor – the first woman doctor ever to graduate in Italy.  She worked in the field of psychiatry, education and anthropology.  As her chosen career was strongly disapproved of by her father, she paid her own way through university by tutoring, showing a determination and strength of character that were never to leave her.


Maria Montessori was born at Chiaravelle, Italy, on August 31, 1870.  In 1894 she was the first woman to graduate in Medicine from the University of Rome, and in 1899 she began a study of educational problems of handicapped children.  Working on lines first laid down by the French physician E. Seguin, she achieved startling results and the children under her tutelage passed the state examination in reading and writing for normal children.  Dr Montessori concluded that similar methods might also be successfully applied to younger normal children and she began to work with toddlers in private and public schools in Rome.


She encountered opposition from advocates of orthodox methods of education who regarded her system, which encouraged freedom of movement, as destructive of discipline, but she was warmly supported by enthusiastic reformers. From 1900 to 1907 Maria Montessori lectured on pedagogical anthropology at the University of Rome and in 1922 she was appointed government inspector of schools in Italy.  She wrote many books on learning and the child, and the system of education which she developed bears her name.  Her later years were spent supervising training courses in Spain, India, England, and in the Netherlands.  She died at Noordwijk, Netherlands, on May 6, 1952.


“Scientific observation has established that education is not what the teacher gives;

education is a natural process spontaneously carried out by the human individual, and is acquired not by listening to words but by experiences upon the environment.”

Dr Maria Montessori.







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