Maria Montessori was born in Ancona, Italy in 1870 and was the first woman to graduate from the University of Rome Medical School. She graduated in 1896 and began her work with the University’s Psychiatric Clinic. Her clinical visits with children prompted her to study the works of Jean Itard and Edward Seguin, pioneers in special education. Dr. Montessori became Director of the State Orthophrenic School in 1898. Dr. Montessori spent the following two years teaching children, preparing materials, taking notes, and reflecting on her observations and work. As a result of this concentrated study and her finding that these children could learn many things that seemed impossible, she devoted her energy to the field of education for the rest of her life.
Dr. Montessori returned to the University of Rome to study philosophy, psychology, and anthropology. The years that followed provided her with experiences in clinics, hospitals, a daycare centre in a housing project, and in schools which she opened in San Lorenzo, Milan, and Rome. In studying the children in all conditions around the world, Dr. Montessori discovered universal principles underlying the development of all children.