Jean Piaget (9 August 1896 – 16 September 1980) was a Swiss philosopher and natural
scientist, and was well known for his work studying children. His theory of cognitive
development and epistemological view's together called "genetic epistemology."
He laid great importance to the education of children that made him declare in 1934
in his role as Director of the International Bureau of Education that ‘only education's
capable of saving our societies from possible collapse, whether violent, or gradual’.
In 1955 he created the International Centre for Genetic Epistemology in Geneva and
directed it until 1980. According to Ernst von Glasersfeld, Jean Piaget's "the great
pioneer of the constructivist theory of knowing."
Piaget was born in 1896 in Neuchâtel in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. His
father, Arthur Piaget, was a professor of medieval literature at the University of
Neuchâtel. Piaget was a precocious child who developed an interest in biology and
the natural world, particularly molluscs, and even published a number of papers
before he graduated from high school. He published his first scientific paper at the
age of ten. Over the course of his career, Piaget wrote more than sixty books and
several hundred articles.
Piaget received a Ph.D. in natural science from the University of Neuchâtel, and also
studied briefly at the University of Zürich. During this time, he published two
philosophical papers which showed the direction of his thinking at the time, but which
he later dismissed as adolescent thought . His interest in psychoanalysis, a strain of
psychological thought burgeoning at that time, can also be dated to this period. He
then moved from Switzerland to Paris, France, where he taught at the Grange-Aux-
Belles street school for boys run by Alfred Binet, the developer of the Binet intelligence
It was while he was helping to mark some instances of these intelligence tests that
Piaget noticed that young children consistently gave wrong answers to certain
questions. Piaget didn't focus so much on the fact of the children's answers being
wrong, but that young children kept making the same pattern of mistakes that older
children and adults didn't. This led him to the theory that young children's cognitive
processes are inherently different from those of adults. (Ultimately, he was to propose
a global theory of developmental stages stating that individuals exhibit certain
distinctive common patterns of cognition in each period in their development.) In
1921, Piaget returned to Switzerland as director of the Rousseau Institute in Geneva.
In 1923, he married Valentine Châtenay, one of his students; together, the couple had
three children, whom Piaget studied from infancy. In 1929, Jean Piaget accepted the
post of Director of the International Bureau of Education and remained the head of
this international organization until 1968. Every year, he drafted his “Director's
Speeches” for the IBE Council and for the International Conference on Public
Education in which he explicitly expressed his educational credo.
In 1964, Piaget was invited to serve as chief consultant at two conferences at Cornell
University (March 11 to March 13) and University of California, Berkeley (March 16 to
March 18). The conferences addressed the relationship of cognitive studies and
curriculum development and strived to conceive implications of recent
investigations of children's cognitive development for curricula.
Homeschool unless otherwise stipulated.