an outline biography
Jean Piaget was born on August 9 1896 in
Neuchâtel, Switzerland, where his father was a professor of
mediaeval literature. He was the eldest child in the family and
took an early and serious interest in nature and shell collecting
writing his first scientific paper, concerning his sighting of an
albino sparrow, at the age of ten.
A part time job in Neuchâtel's Museum of Natural History
helped him to write a large number of other scientific papers -
on Molluscs - while he was still in high school.
Following his secondary education he proceeded to the
University of Neuchâtel and received his Doctorate in
Zoology in the year 1918. At the age of twenty-two in search of
answers to BIG questions of existence, he became interested in
psychology and spent a year in related studies in Zürich,
Switzerland. During this year Piaget became familiar with the
approaches to psychology of Freud, Jung, and others.
In 1919 he relocated to the Sorbonne in Paris where he
lectured in psychology and philosophy and began what developed
into a long term series of studies into the development of
cognitive abilities in children. His studies were not so much in
the way of "intelligence testing" as they were investigations
into the way children reasoned.
In 1921 he took up a post at the Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Institute in Geneva where he encouraged his students to join in
further investigations of the reasoning of children. A number of
books on child psychology were produced arising out of these
investigations. In 1923 he married Valentine Châtenay who
had been one of his students. The resulting children, two
daughters, became the central subjects of further, joint, works
on cognitive development in children.
Piaget eventually began to concentrate his attention on the
development of knowledge and labelled this area of study
Genetic Epistemiology. His work became widely influential
and its conclusions were drawn on internationally in the
development of educational and other child related programmes.
His work did much to give rise to the study of developmental
psychology and of cognitive theory. He received numerous honorary
degrees and other recognitions from Universities in many parts of
the world. In 1950 his work was made more readily available
through the publication of his Introduction to Genetic
In 1952 Jean Piaget took up a professorship at the Sorbonne.
Other endeavours include his foundation of an International
Center for Genetic Epistemiology (Centre d'Epistémologie
Génétique) at the University of Geneva (1955) and
the development of a School of Sciences (Institut des Sciences de
l'Education) at the University of Geneva (from 1956).
Jean Piaget was still researching, at the age of eighty-four,
at the time of his death in Geneva on September 16 1980.
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an outline biography