Born 1870 in Italy, Died 1952 (aged 81) in the Netherlands
Maria Montessori was an Italian physician and educator best known for the philosophy of education that bears her name, and her writing on scientific pedagogy.
She studied medicine but around 1897 realised that her true interest was in education. After achieving outstanding successes with disabled children she developed materials that would later on be used with "mainstream" children.
In 1907 she opened a "Children's House" with 50 or 60 children between the ages of two or three and six or seven and observed the learning effects of her materials.
A main tenet was that the children showed deep focus and concentration when left to themselves in a nurtuing environment. They showed an inate interest in learning instead of just playing with non-educational toys or sweets.
Thereafter, a spontaneous self-discipline emerged.
She further adapted the environment to the children by replacing adult furniture with child-sizes tables and chairs and low shelves and also introduced more day-to-day practical life activities.
She began to see independence as the aim of education, and the role of the teacher as an observer and director of children's innate psychological development.
Montessori's methods and materials become increasingly popular and in 1911 her work was widely publicized in the USA, with the inventor Alexander Graham Bell becoming a proponent of the method and opening a school in his home in Canada.
In 1913 Montessori toured Europe with a series of lectures and was well-received everywhere.