The early influence in the life of Jean Piaget Essay

The early influence in the life of jean piaget


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Jean Piaget was born on the August 9th 1896 in Neuchatel, Switzerland, the son of a historian. To some Piaget was a natural scientist, Swiss philosopher and a developmental theorist. Others viewed him as an influential experimenter and theorist in the field of developmental psychology and in the study of human intelligence. He is well known well known for his work in studying children, his theory of cognitive development and for his epistemological view called genetic epistemology. In 1921, Piaget became the director of research at the Jean-Jacques Rousseau Institute in Geneva, in 1925, Piaget, took the chair of philosophy at the University of Neuchatel and in 1929 he became the Director of the International Bureau of Education until 1968. In 1955 he created the International centre for Genetic Epistemology in Geneva. He married Valentine Châtenay, one of his students; together, the couple had three children, his first daughter was born in 1925, his second daughter in 1927 and a boy followed in 1931, of which Piaget took pride in studying from intimacy.

As a child, Piaget had interests in mechanic, seashells and birds. He published his first paper at 10 and at age 22 he received his PhD in science from the University of Neuchatel. In 1919 he went to Paris where he attended courses in pathological physiology where he learned to interview mental patients. It was at this time that Theodore Simon asked Piaget to work at the Binet’s laboratory in Paris where he worked on refining Burt’s reasoning test. This is where he started to investigate the way that children reason. For two years he analyzed the verbal reasoning of normal children by availing different questions and exposing them to tasks that involved simple concrete relations of cause and effect. This is when he found out that he wanted to work in the field of inductive and experimental psychology.

Influences in his early life.

Piaget’s life was influenced by a number of things especially because his analysis and published work started to show at a very young age. Piaget’s father was a historian who was devoted to his writings of medieval literature and the history of Neuchatel. Piaget’s childhood was influenced by what he saw in his father, a man dedicated to his studies and work; he learnt the value of systematic work, in the smallest matters. As a result, he began passing up recreation for studying, particularly in natural sciences.

He became like his father a person dedicated to his writings. When Piaget was 11, his notes on a rare part-albino sparrow were published, the first of hundreds of articles and over fifty books. His help in the classification of Neuchâtel’s natural-history museum collection inspired his study of mollusks (shellfish). An article written when he was fifteen, led to a job offer at a natural history museum in Geneva, Switzerland; he declined in order to continue his education. He finished his natural science studies at the Neuchâtel University in 1916 and earned a doctoral degree for research on mollusks in 1918.

However, he experienced problems publishing some of his work due to his age. He was forced many a times to keep his age a secret while submitting his work to be published as editors felt that a young author had little credibility.

Piaget’s mother was an intelligent, energetic and kind but had a neurotic temperament. Her mental status influenced heavily his studies of psychology and he earned an interest in psychology. He attended courses in Sorbonne in pathological psychology ,abnormal psychology, logic, and epistemology,  where he learned to interview mental patients. At the Jean-Jacques Rousseau Institute in Geneva, Piaget planned to study the emergence of intelligence and then return to the origins of mental health after two years. At the University of Neuchatel, where he served as the chair in psychology, his duties included teaching psychology, philosophy, science and sociology. While working in two psychological laboratories in Zurich, they introduced him to psychoanalysis.

Even though he specialized and immersed himself deeply in child psychology, the basis was set by the interest he had in psychology as a child seeing his mother and her not so well mental state. This is what set stage for great Jean Piaget.

Piaget’s godfather was the Swiss scholar Samuel Cornut who nurtured in him an interest in philosophy and epistemology during his adolescence, he introduced him to philosophy. Piaget was later trained in biology and philosophy. He considered himself a genetic epistemologist; a science set by his godfather whose main interest being how one comes to know things. He was later to become famous for his epistemological view called “genetic epistemology”.


Piaget was an active man throughout his life. He enjoyed great fame and had many discoveries. He started out studying mollusk and then studied his own children as they developed. He worked at several universities in the departments of philosophy, child psychology, and history. Today his theory of cognitive development is used in many of the preschool and primary grade set-ups. Children in these programs are encouraged to learn through discovery. They are supported in all the things they try and challenged to try new things that are just beyond the child’s ability but not to far out of their reach

For More Information

Furth, Hans G. Piaget and Knowledge: Theoretical Foundations. 2nd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981.

Fravell, John H. The Developmental Psychology of Jean Piaget. Princeton, NJ: Van Nostrand Press, 1963.

Evans, Richard I. Jean Piaget, the Man and His Ideas. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1973.