educator and psychologist, b. 17 November 1896 (Orsha, Belorussia, Russian empire), d. 11 June 1934 (Moscow, USSR).
Lev Vygotskij, the son of highly educated tolerant parents, received his formal education in Moscow, where he graduated from law school in 1917. But he was more interested in the humanities and also enrolled in literature, philosopohy and psychology. In 1925 he submitted his Ph.D. thesis Psichologiya iskusstva (The Psychology of Art) at the Mosccow Institute of Psychology. This work was of such fundamental insight that it was published in book form in 1965, fourty years after the thesis was written. It gave Vygotskij the opportunity to hold lectures at the Pedagogical Institute in Gomel, Belorussia, which were published in 1926 as Pedagogicheskaya psichologiya (Educational Psychology).
The Soviet government appointed Vygotskij to a research position at the Institute of Psychology of Moscow University and provided him with the funds to establish an institute for disabled children. Vygotskij planned to visit Uzbekistan and other parts of Central Asia in 1931 - 1932 to develop an education system for illiterate peasants; but he struggled with tuberculosis throughout his life, and ill health prevented him from going.
Vygotskij died at the age of 37. During the weeks before his death he dictated in great haste his major work Myshlenie i rech (Language and Thought). A thoroughly scientific work, it summarizes Vygotskij's analysis of the relationship and interaction between thought and language and documents his technique of verification through repeatable experiment.
During his lifetime Vygotsky's research formed the basis for education in Soviet schools and in particular for the education of disabled children. But in 1936 his work was declared unscientific, and his works were banned for about 30 years. A first collection including most of his works in 6 volumes was published in Moscow in 1982 - 1984, his book "Educational Psychology" in 1991. Since then his work has aroused great interest in psychology and education and is on the way towards becoming a cornerstone for school education.
Photo: public domain (Wikipedia)