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Biography of Dr. Maria Montessori

“Wisdom, intelligence, grows from within and through the senses.”
– Dr. Maria Montessori –   

Maria Montessori graduated from the medical school of the University of Rome in 1896, and was the first woman to practice medicine in Italy. As a physician, Dr. Montessori was very involved with the care of young children.

Through scientific observation, Dr. Montessori came to see how children interacted with one another, learned through the use of materials she provided, and went through specific phases of development. Her approach to education was developed based on her observations, in collaboration with her background in psychology and her belief in the education of children as a means to create a better society.

Dr. Montessori continued to observe children around the world, and found that the universal laws of development she had recognized were inherent to children of all races and cultures. The Montessori approach to education continues to be respected and practiced internationally.

Adapted from “What Is Montessori” published by the Association Montessori 

Dr. Montessori 1870-1952
Association Montessori Internationale 

Her approach to education was established by research in biology, psychiatry and anthropology. She was nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1949, 1950, and 1951.  She studied children of different races and cultures around the world, and later discovered the universality of the laws of human development.  She travelled extensively to give training courses on her method.  During one of these trips, she became caught in the middle of the Second World War and ended up spending a summer in Kodaikanal, in rural India. It was there that she developed the hypothesis of the connection between nature and all living things.

She continued her observations throughout her life, widening and deepening her understanding and sharing all her knowledge with the world until her death in 1952.  Her intense scientific observation of the human beings from birth to maturity allowed her to form a body of philosophical, psychological and pedagogical principles.  These, together with a vast range of auto-didactic materials, came to be known as The Montessori Method of Education.

Maria Montessori Time Line
1870 Maria Montessori born in the town of Chiaravalle, in the province of Ancona, Italy.
1896-97 Became the first female Italian certified medical doctor. Montessori worked at the Psychiatric Clinic in the University of Rome during her first job being a doctor
1897 Began to study the findings of Edouard Séguin, a French doctor who treated disabled children in Paris. She also reviewed the works of Jean Itard under whom Séguin had studied.
1896-1900 Chosen to represent Italy at two different women’s conferences in Berlin and in London.
1901 Returned to the university to study pedagogical pathology and educational philosophy.
1904 Made a professor of anthropology at the University of Rome.
1907 She gave up both her university chair and her medical practice to work with a group of sixty young children of working parents in the San Lorenzo district of Rome. It was there that she founded the first Casa dei Bambini, meaning ‘Children’s House’.
1909 She published “The Method of Scientific Pedagogy Applied to the Education of Young Children in the Casa dei Bambini”.
1912 Maria Montessori made her first visit to the United States, the same year that Alexander Graham Bell and his wife Mabel founded the Montessori Educational Association at their Washington, D.C. home.
1915 She attracted world attention with her “glass house” school room exhibit at the Panama-Pacific International Exhibition in San Francisco. On this second U.S. visit, she also conducted a teacher training course and addressed the annual conventions of both the National Education Association and the International Kindergarten Union. The committee that brought her to San Francisco included Margaret Wilson, daughter of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson.
1916-1918 The Spanish government invited her to open a research institute; she began a series of teacher training courses in London.
1922 She was appointed a government inspector of schools in her native Italy.
1929 She founded the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
1934 Because of her opposition to Mussolini’s fascism, she was forced to leave Italy.
1938 She opened the Montessori Training Centre in Laren, Netherlands.
1939 She founded a series of teacher training courses in India.
1940 When India entered World War II, she and her son, Mario Montessori, were interned as enemy aliens, but she was still permitted to conduct training courses.
1946 She founded the Montessori St Nicholas Centre in London.  It is now the Montessori Centre International (MCI) today, the No.1 Montessori training centre in Europe.
1949-1951 She was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times in 1949, 1950, and 1951.
1952 Maria Montessori died in Noordwijk, Holland at 82 years of age.