Dr Maria Montessori

                               Dr Maria Montessori

Maria Montessori was a medical doctor who became world  renowned for her work in the education of young children. She was born in Italy on the 31st August 1870, the daughter of well-educated, middle class parents. Despite  her father’s protests, she first studied engineering, then medicine, and in 1896 was one of the first women to graduate as a doctor from the University of Rome. In her work as a voluntary  researcher at the University’s psychiatric clinic, she visited asylums to select  patients for treatment and there observed children suffering from mental  illness.

It became clear to her that none of them had any hope of  improvement in asylum conditions and she became interested in the work done by  Itard and Seguin. She began to study, and eventually work with  children suffering from mental illness, becoming convinced that the key to  their education lay in the realisation of their individual potential.

She designed and had built a set of teaching materials and  developed an environment in which self-motivated learning could take place. Her  success with these children led her to take an interest in  the education of more typical children, and in 1907 she started her first school, the  “Casa Dei Bambini” in a underprivileged  area of Rome.

Thus began Dr Montessori’s life-long involvement in  education rather than medicine. The “Casa dei Bambini” attracted a  great deal of attention, and in 1909 Maria Montessori ran her first training  course for teachers. From this came her theory of education (set out in The  Montessori Method) and the growth of Montessori schools all over Europe and the  U.S.A.

Subsequent lecture tours and training courses were held in England, Spain, Australia, Holland and the United States. In 1934, Mussolini forced the closure of the Montessori Schools in Italy, and Dr Montessori settled in Holland, where she established the Association Montessori Internationale.

When World War II broke out, Dr Montessori went to India to  establish a training centre, and there her ideas were influenced by the Indian  culture. It was in India  that she developed the concept of “cosmic education”.  Also, as a result of the War she developed a  passionate concern for peace through education.

After the War ended, she returned to London and a Montessori Centre was  established which today survives as the St Nicholas Training Centre. The rest  of her life was spent in writing and teaching, and she travelled widely to  further the aims of the A.M.I.

She was nominated three times  for the Nobel Peace Prize, and she lived to  see herself and her theories acclaimed throughout the world. She died in Holland in 1952, at the  age of 82, and is buried near Hague, headquarters of the A.M.I., Association  Montessori Internationale.