Born in Chiaravalle in the Province of Ancona in 1870, Maria Montessori was the first woman to practice medicine in Italy, having graduated from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Rome in 1896.
As a physician, Dr. Montessori was in touch with young children and became profoundly interested in their development. Through careful and exhaustive scrutiny, she realized:
children construct their own personalities as they interact with their environment
they learn as they spontaneously choose and work with the auto didactic Montessori materials
Her approach to education stemmed from a solid grounding in biology, psychiatry and anthropology. She studied children of all races and cultures in many countries around the world, soon seeing the universality of the laws of human development played out before her.
She continued her observations throughout her life, widening and deepening her understanding until her death in 1952. Dr. Montessori studied educational methods for many years and found them wanting because of the two seemingly paradoxical extremes which are at the centre of her pedagogy:
the universal characteristics of the human child
and the child as a unique, unrepeatable, respectable and admirable individual to be unconditionally accepted as one of life’s most marvelous expressions