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NAME
Jean Piaget

OCCUPATION
Scientist, Psychologist, Biologist

BIRTH DATE
August 9, 1896

DEATH DATE
September 16, 1980

EDUCATION
University of Zürich, Neuchâtel Latin High School, Sorbonne, University of
Neuchâtel

PLACE OF BIRTH
Neuchâtel, Switzerland

PLACE OF DEATH
Geneva, Switzerland
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QUOTES
“The goal of education is not to increase the amount of knowledge but to create
the possibilities for a child to invent and discover, to create men who are
capable of doing new things.”
—Jean Piaget

Jean Piaget Biography


Scientist, Psychologist, Biologist (1896–1980)
 252
SHARES





20th-century scholar Jean Piaget created highly influential theories
on the stages of mental development among children, becoming a
leading figure in the fields of cognitive theory and developmental
psychology.
Synopsis
Jean Piaget was born on August 9, 1896, in Neuchâtel, Switzerland, becoming an
expert on the study of mollusks by his teen years. Over the course of his later career
in child psychology, he identified four stages of mental development that chronicled
young people's journeys from basic object identification to highly abstract thought.
The recipient of an array of honors, Piaget died on September 16, 1980, in Geneva,
Switzerland.

Background and Early Life

Biologist and psychologist Jean Piaget was born on August 9, 1896, in Neuchâtel,
Switzerland. He was his parents’ first child. Piaget’s mother, Rebecca Jackson,
attributed his intense early interest in the sciences to his own neurotic tendencies.
Yet his father, a medieval literature professor named Arthur, modeled a passionate
dedication to his studies—a trait that Piaget began to emulate from an early age. At
just 10 years old, Piaget’s fascination with mollusks drew him to the local museum of
natural history, where he stared at specimens for hours on end.

When he was 11 and attending Neuchâtel Latin High School, Piaget wrote a short
scientific paper on the albino sparrow. By the time he was a teen, his papers on
mollusks were being widely published. Piaget’s readers were unaware of his age and
considered him an expert on the topic.

After high school, Piaget went on to study zoology at the University of Neuchâtel,
receiving his Ph.D. in the natural sciences in 1918. That same year Piaget spent a
semester studying psychology under Carl Jung and Paul Eugen Bleuler at the
University of Zürich, where Piaget developed a deeper interest in psychoanalysis.
Over the course of the next year, he studied abnormal psychology at the Sorbonne
in Paris.

Groundbreaking Developmental Work

In 1920, working in collaboration with Théodore Simon at the Alfred Binet Laboratory
in Paris, Piaget evaluated the results of standardized reasoning tests that Simon had
designed. The tests were meant to measure child intelligence and draw connections
between a child’s age and the nature of his errors. For Piaget it raised new questions
about the way that children learn.

Piaget ultimately decided that the test was too rigid. In a revised version, he allowed
children to explain the logic of their "incorrect" answers. In reading the children’s
explanations, he realized that children’s power of reasoning was not flawed after all.
In areas where children lacked life experience as a point of reference, they logically
used their imagination to compensate. He additionally concluded that factual
knowledge should not be equated with intelligence or understanding.
Over the course of his six-decade career in child psychology, Piaget also identified
four stages of mental development. The first is called the "sensorimotor stage,"
which involves learning through motor actions and takes place when children are 0–
2 years old. During the "preoperation stage," children aged 3–7 develop intelligence
through the use of symbolic language, fantasy play and natural intuition. During the
"concrete operational stage," children 8–11 develop cognitively through the use of
logic that is based on concrete evidence. "Formal operations," the fourth and final
stage, involves 12-to-15-year-olds forming the ability to think abstractly with more
complex understandings of logic and cause and effect.

Piaget called his collective theories on child development a "genetic epistemology."


He also relied on the concept of schemas, defined as the cognitive structures and
frameworks through which we understand the world, to help further explain his
developmental theories.

Death and Legacy

Jean Piaget died of unknown causes on September 16, 1980, in Geneva,


Switzerland. He was 84 years old. His body rests at the Cimetière des Plainpalais.

Piaget is responsible for developing entirely new fields of scientific study, having a
major impact on the areas of cognitive theory and developmental psychology.
Nonetheless, his ideas were not beyond critique: Some scholars noted that his work
didn't take into account sociocultural/geographical differences among children and
that some adults are shown via studies to have not reached the fourth stage of his
developmental timetable.

Piaget was the recipient of an array of honorary degrees and accolades, including
the prestigious Erasmus (1972) and Balzan (1978) prizes. The author of more than
50 books and hundreds of papers, Piaget summed up his passion for the ongoing
pursuit of scientific knowledge with these words: "The current state of knowledge is a
moment in history, changing just as rapidly as the state of knowledge in the past has
ever changed and, in many instances, more rapidly."

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Citation Information

Article Title
Jean Piaget Biography

Author
Website Name
The Biography.com website

URL
https://www.biography.com/people/jean-piaget-9439915

Access Date

{{$root.currentTime | date:'MMMM d, yyyy'}}

Publisher
A&E Television Networks

Last Updated
February 18, 2016

Original Published Date


n/a

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