A Brief Biography of Jean Piaget
Text and images provided courtesy of the Archives
Jean Piaget (1896-1980)
Piaget was born in Neuchâtel (Switzerland) on August 9, 1896.
He died in Geneva on September 16, 1980. He was the oldest child of
Arthur Piaget, professor of medieval literature at the University,
and of Rebecca Jackson. At age 11, while he was a pupil at Neuchâtel
Latin high school, he wrote a short notice on an albino sparrow. This
short paper is generally considered as the start of a brilliant scientific
career made of over sixty books and several hundred articles.
interest for mollusks was developed during his late adolescence
to the point that he became a well-known malacologist by finishing
school. He published many papers in the field that remained of interest
for him all along his life.
high school graduation, he studied natural sciences at the University
of Neuchâtel where he obtained a Ph.D. During this period,
he published two philosophical essays which he considered as "adolescence
work" but were important for the general orientation of his thinking.
a semester spent at the University of Zürich where he developed
an interest for psychoanalysis, he left Switzerland for France.
He spent one year working at the Ecole de la rue de la Grange-aux-Belles
a boys' institution created by Alfred Binet and then directed by
De Simon who had developed with Binet a test for the measurement
of intelligence. There, he standardized Burt's test of intelligence
and did his first experimental studies of the growing mind.
1921, he became director of studies at the J.-J. Rousseau Institute
in Geneva at the request of Sir Ed. Claparède and P. Bovet.
1923, he and Valentine Châtenay were married. The couple had
three children, Jacqueline, Lucienne and Laurent whose intellectual
development from infancy to language was studied by Piaget.
or simultaneously, Piaget occupied several chairs: psychology, sociology
and history of science at Neuchâtel from 1925 to 1929; history
of scientific thinking at Geneva from 1929 to 1939; the International
Bureau of Education from 1929 to 1967; psychology and sociology
at Lausanne from 1938 to 1951; sociology at Geneva from 1939 to
1952, then genetic and experimental psychology from 1940 to 1971.
He was, reportedly, the only Swiss to be invited at the Sorbonne
from 1952 to 1963. In 1955, he created and directed until his death
the International Center for Genetic Epistemology.
researches in developmental psychology and genetic epistemology
had one unique goal: how does knowledge grow? His answer is that
the growth of knowledge is a progressive construction of logically
embedded structures superseding one another by a process of inclusion
of lower less powerful logical means into higher and more powerful
ones up to adulthood. Therefore, children's logic and modes of thinking
are initially entirely different from those of adults.
oeuvre is known all over the world and is still an inspiration in
fields like psychology, sociology, education, epistemology, economics
and law as witnessed in the annual catalogues of the Jean Piaget
Archives. He was awarded numerous prizes and honorary degrees all
over the world.
Awards, and Publications
Text provided by Les Smith
- Born 9 August 1896, Neuchâtel, Switzerland
- Died 16 September 1980, Geneva, Switzerland
Research Director, Institut
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Geneva
Professor of Psychology,
Sociology and the Philosophy of Science, University of Neuchatel
Professor of the History
of Scientific Thought, University of Geneva
Bureau of Education, Geneva
Director, Institute of Educational
Sciences, University of Geneva
Professor of Experimental
Psychology and Sociology, University of Lausanne
Professor of Sociology,
University of Geneva
Professor of Experimental
Psychology, University of Geneva
Professor of Genetic Psychology,
Centre for Genetic Epistemology, Geneva
Emeritus Professor, University
- Swiss Commission UNESCO
- Swiss Society of Psychology
- French Language Association of Scientific Psychology
- International Union of Scientific Psychology
Co-Director: Department of Education, UNESCO.
Member: Executive Council, UNESCO and 20
Co-Editor: Archives de Psychologie
and 7 other journals
- Harvard (1936)
- Manchester (1959)
- Cambridge (1962)
- Bristol (1970)
- CNAA (1975)
- and 26 other Universities
Erasmus Prize (1972) and 11 other international
Piaget published more than 50 books and 500 papers
as well as 37 volumes in the series "Etudes d'Epistémologie
Génétique" (Studies in Genetic Epistemology).
Almost all of these publications are listed in:
Jean Piaget Archives Foundation (1989). The
Jean Piaget Bibliography. Geneva: Jean Piaget Archives Foundation.
There is a breakdown of these publications by decade
during 1919-1980 in the Preface to:
Smith, L. (1993) Necessary knowledge. Hove:
Erlbaum Associates Ltd.
Bringuier, J.C. (1980). Conversations with Jean
Piaget. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Evans, R. (1973). Jean Piaget, the man and his
ideas. New York: Dutton.
Piaget, J. (1952). Autobiography. In E. Boring
(ed) History of psychology in autobiography. Vol. 4. Worcester,
MA: Clark University Press.
Piaget, J. (1976). Autobiographie. Revuee Européenne
des Sciences Sociales, 14 (38-39), 1-43.
Main works include:
1918, Recherche. Lausanne: La Concorde.
1924, Judgment and reasoning in the child,
London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1928.
1936, Origins of intelligence in the child,
London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1953.
1957, Construction of reality in the child,
London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1954.
1941, Child's conception of number (with
Alina Szeminska), London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1952.
1945, Play, dreams and imitation in childhood,
London: Heinemann, 1951.
1949, Traité de logique. Paris: Colin.
1950, Introduction à l'épistémologie
génétique 3 Vols. Paris: Presses Universitaires
1954, Intelligence and affectivity, Palo
Alto, CA: Annual Reviews, 1981.
1955, Growth of logical thinking (with Bärbel
Inhelder), London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1958.
1962, Commentary on Vygotsky's criticisms. New
Ideas in Psychology, 13, 325-40, 1995
1967, Logique et connaissance scientifique.
1967, Biology and knowledge, Edinburgh:
Edinburgh University Press, 1971.
1970, Piaget's theory. In P. Mussen (ed) Handbook
of child psychology, Vol.1. New York: Wiley, 1983.
1970, Main trends in psychology, London:
George Allen & Unwin, 1973.
1975, Equilibration of cognitive structures,
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985.
1977, Sociological studies, London: Routledge,
1977, Studies in reflecting abstraction.
Hove: Psychology Press, 2000
1977, Essay on necessity. Human Development,
29, 301-14, 1986.
1981, Possibility and necessity, 2 Vols,
Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987.
1983, Psychogenesis and the history of science
(with Rolando Garcia), New York: Columbia University Press, 1989.
1987, Towards a logic of meanings (with
Rolando Garcia), Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum Associates, 1991.
1990, Morphisms and categories (with Gil
Henriques, Edgar Ascher), Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum Associates, 1992.
Further Reading includes:
Beilin, H. (1992). Piaget's enduring contribution
to developmental psychology. Developmental Psychology, 28,
Chapman, M. (1988). Constructive evolution:
origins and development of Piaget's thought. Cambridge: Cambridge
Kitchener, R. (1986). Piaget's theory of knowledge.
New Haven: Yale University Press.
Smith, L. (1992). Jean Piaget: critical assessments.
4 Vols. London: Routledge.
Smith, L. (1996). Critical readings on Piaget.
Vidal, F. (1994). Piaget before Piaget.
Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Vonèche, J.J. (1985). Genetic epistemology:
Piaget's theory. International Encyclopedia of Education,
Vol. 4. Oxford: Pergamon.
Institutional Addresses relevant to Jean Piagets work:
Jean Piaget Archives (Switzerland): www.unige.ch/piaget/
Jean Piaget Society: Society for the Study of Knowledge
and Development (USA): www.piaget.org
This information is adapted from a biographical
review of Piagets work:
Smith, L. (1997). Jean Piaget. In N. Sheehy, A.
Chapman. W.Conroy (eds). Biographical dictionary of psychology.
For more information on Piaget, try the
Links Page, and the Students Page.