Born in Italy 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 observation, she realized that children construct their own personalities as they interact with their environment. She also observed the manner in which they learned as they spontaneously chose and worked with the specifically designed materials she provided.
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 was invited to the USA by Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison, where she made an appearance at Carnegie Hall in New York in 1915. The following is from a 1913 letter from Alexander Graham Bell:
Dear Dr. Montessori,
On behalf of the Montessori Educational Association of America, I have the honor to inform you that we have elected you as its first Honorary member and to express to you in this way our deep appreciation of your great work for humanity.
â€”Alexander Graham Bell, 1913