Jean Piaget
Researched and written by:  Erin Patterson
I attest that the following biography is a product of my own original work..

“The principle goal of education is to create men who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done-men who are creative, inventive and discovers”

"The most developed science remains a continual becoming"


Childhood/Family Life

    Jean Piaget, Swiss psychologist and an avid worker with the study of child thinking, stated the above quote.  He was the first born to Rebecca Jackson and Arthur Piaget on August 9th, 1896 in Neuchatel, Switzerland.  Jeans father taught medieval literature at the University and his mother was a Calvinist and caregiver to the family.  He was known as a child prodigy and developed a passion for the study of nature at an early age.  At age 11 while attending Neuchatel Latin high school, he wrote a short paper on an albino sparrow sighting.  From that came the launch of his scientific career, which consisted of numerous books and articles.  Later in his adolescence he found himself intrigued with mollusks and by the end of his early schooling he was known as a malacologist  (Piaget Society 2002).
Adult Life

After his high school graduation, he attended University of Neuchatel where he received his doctorate in Zoology.  After he left the University of Neuchatel, he spent a semester at the University of Zurich where he took a liking to psychoanalysis, and while there he attended Carl Jung’s lectures.  He left Switzerland to go study abnormal psychology and logic in France and ended up working there as well.  He spent a year at a Boy’s Institute that was created by Alfred Binet and De Simon who happened to establish the measurements test for intelligence.  These intelligence tests helped Piaget as he applied them and did his first experimental work and studied the growth of the mind.  He later went back to Switzerland where he began observing children in their natural environment and recorded what they said and did.  In 1923 he married Valentine Chatenay and the couple had three children, Jacqueline, Lucienne and Laurent.  Being that their father had a passion for children’s ways of thinking, Piaget studied their intellectual development from infancy to the time they could speak.

Piaget passion for kids led him to the belief that children’s logic and modes of thinking are completely different from that of adults.  He quotes his theory as, “learning is no more than a sector of cognitive development that is facilitated by experience” (Papert 1999).  He found that when children answered questions, even if an adult corrected them, they still weren’t wrong. This was because they answered the question within their framework of their own knowledge from what they see or experience.  Teachers for many years have looked at Piaget as a role model in the fact that he said kids are not robots that get filled with knowledge, but rather testing their own theories of life as they have learned from interaction in the environment.

Professional Accomplishments


Professional accomplishments achieved by Piaget were as followed: from 1921-25 he was a research director at the Institute Jean Jacques Rousseau in Geneva, 1925-29, professor of Psychology, Sociology and Philosophy of Science at the University of Neuchatel.  While Piaget was at the University of Geneva from 1929-1980, he was director of the International Bureau of Education, director of the Institute of Educational Sciences, and the director of the International Center for Genetic Epistemology. He was Professor of Sociology, Experimental Psychology, and Emeritus.  He was coeditor of eight journals and has honorary doctorates from Harvard, Manchester, Cambridge and about 28 other universities.  He received the Erasmus Prize in 1972 and numerous awards from around the world.  The Erasmus is the next biggest award next to the Nobel Prize.  It is awarded to a person or institute that has made an important contribution to European culture, society, or social science that stands out.



Contributions to Psychology

Some of his contributions to the study of psychology include the development of the four stages of cognitive development, which are Sensorimotor, Preoperational, Concrete Operational, and Formal Operational.  He also contributed Developmental Psychology and Genetic Epistemology, which studied how knowledge was learned within humans.  The four principles are as follows: 1) “Children will provide different explanations of reality at different stages of cognitive development, 2) Cognitive development is facilitated by providing activities or situations that engage learners and require adaptation (i.e. assimilation and accommodation), 3) Learning materials and activities should involve the appropriate level of motor or mental operations for a child of given age; avoid asking students to perform tasks that are beyond their current cognitive capabilities, 4) Use teaching methods that actively involve students and present challenges” (Genetic Epistemology 2005). Even though he never formally studied child psychology, Jean Piaget led the way for other activist for studying children’s modes of learning and thinking.  Jean Piaget passed away in 1980.  However, his contributions will be forever lasting and anyone associated with educational purposes for children will look at his theories and studies as the start of the pathway to show that children’s thinking should be taken seriously.


Genetice Epistemology. (n.d.). Retrieved April 4, 2005, from
Papert, S. (1999) Jean Piaget. Retrieved April 4, 2005, from
Piaget, J. Society (2002). A Short Biography of Jean Piaget. Retrieved April 4, 2005,



If you want more information about this web site, please send an email to Dr. Megan E. Bradley