Maria Montessori was born at Chiaravelle, Italy, on August 31, 1870. In 1894 she was the first woman to graduate in Medicine from the University of Rome, and in 1899 she began a study of educational problems of handicapped children. Working on lines first laid down by the French physician E. Seguin, she achieved startling results and the children under her tutelage passed the state examination in reading and writing for normal children. Dr. Montessori concluded that similar methods might also be successfully applied to younger normal children and she began to work with toddlers in private and public schools in Rome. She encountered opposition from advocates of orthodox methods of education who regarded her system, which encouraged freedom of movement, as destructive of discipline, but she was warmly supported by enthusiastic reformers. From 1900 to 1907 Maria Montessori lectured on pedagogical anthropology at the University of Rome and in 1922 she was appointed government inspector of schools in Italy. She wrote more than six books on learning and the child, and the system of education which she developed bears her name. Her later years were spent supervising training courses in Spain, India, England, and the Netherlands. She died at Noordwijk, Netherlands on May 6, 1952.
Montessori, Maria. The Secret of Childhood. English translation, Ballantine Books, New York, 1972
The Montessori Method
Maria Montessori's first observations came from an Italian classroom of children with learning disabilities; she found that even these children, when encouraged, had a spontaneous interest in learning, and a spontaneous self-discipline. Applying her discovery to other children, allowing her students to progress in an atmosphere of freedom, Dr. Montessori found that they paced their own development through a series of sensitive periods during which they became acutely aware of language, order, their own senses, society. Her method encouraged these periods to explode into bursts of creativity-reading, writing, passionate curiosity-thereby freeing the mind and giving new scope to education and new breadth to the thinking and spirit of any child.
Standing, E.M. Maria Montessori Her Life and Work. Plume, London, 1957