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Born in Chiaravelle in the Province of Ancona in 1870, Maria Montessori was the first woman to practice medicine in Italy, having graduated from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Rome in 1896. As a physician, Dr. Montessori had contact with young children and became profoundly interested in their development. Through careful and exhaustive observation, she realized that children construct their own personalities as they interact with their environment. She also observed the manner in which they learned as the spontaneously chose and worked with the didactic materials she provided, materials that she selected based on the children’s natural inclinations.
Her approach to education stemmed from a solid grounding in biology, psychiatry and anthropology. She studied children of all races and cultures in many countries around the world, soon seeing the universality of the laws of human development played out before her. She continued her observations throughout her life, widening and deepening her understanding until her death in 1952.