Maria Montessori was born not far from Ancona in the Adriatic village Chiaravalle on August 31 in 1870. The family was very well educated. Therefore Maria discovered at a very young age her love for science. As one of the first women in Italy Montessori successfully graduated with a medical degree in Rome. During her studies, the young physician experienced the entirely underdeveloped field of child psychiatry. It was a desolate and dilapidated storage for children with mental disabilities. The dedicated doctor was upset and wanted to do something about it.
She researched and finally found the right approach in the books of the doctors and educators Jean Itard and Edouard Séquin. Children with mental disabilities would need their own form of pedagogy. Maria resolutely committed to the needs of children and required the construction of special facilities. At the end of the 19th century Montessori began her own research and started to document her significant observations and studies in child psychiatry.
Her consolidated findings helped her to develop materials for math and language teaching. During this time she also gave birth to her son Mario.
Montessori founded the “Casa dei Bambini” in January 1907 in the poor working class district of San Lorenzo in Rome. It turned out to be groundbreaking. In the children’s home, teachers cared about the destitute but mentally healthy children. Due to a lack of alternatives and money the philanthropist Montessori left her auxiliary materials (originally designed for mentally disabled children) to the children´s house – with resounding success. The children from the lower class learned fast and focused. One day Maria completely magnetized watched a three year old girl. Despite massive noise problems she could not be distracted from her work using cylinder blocks. Later, the philosopher described this moment as a high focus “polarization of attention”. Over the next 20 years, the scientist developed her Montessori Method from experience and careful observations.
In 1929 Maria founded the “Association Montessori International (AMI)”. She wanted to ensure the continuation of her work. Since the early 50s the headquarters of the AMI has been located in Amsterdam in the Netherlands. The increasing age of doctor Montessori did not stop her from accepting international invitations of different institutions and interest groups (especially from India). The reform pedagogue taught in many lectures and trained other teachers in her method. Finally she returned to Europe in 1949.
Montessori died on May, 6th in 1952 in Noordwijk aan Zee, Netherland. Her son Mario continued the work of his mother and lead the AMI until his death in 1982.
In the centre of Maria Montessori´s reform pedagogy is the personality of the child. The ultimate goal is to take each child as a perfect and equal being.