Lev Vygotsky Biography

(Soviet Psychologist Known for His Work on Psychological Development in Children)

Birthday: November 17, 1896 (Scorpio)

Born In: Orsha, Belarus

Lev Vygotsky was a Soviet developmental psychologist, a brilliant man known for developing several major theories including Zone of Proximal Development and Sociocultural Theory. He was of the view that children need social interaction with people of different age groups in order to advance their psychological development. He emphasized that dynamic interactions between children and parents and teachers was vital as children learn gradually and continuously from the ones they interact with. However, his theories were met with much skepticism in the early 20th century when he first propounded them; it would be decades after his death that his works would find acclaim in the Western world. Lev Vygotsky was brilliant from a young age and proved to be an excellent student. Though he initially studied medicine, he switched to law and also developed an interest in psychology. He eventually became famous as an educational psychologist. He was a pioneering psychologist who specialized in the fields of developmental psychology, child development, and education. He aimed to use Marxist methodology to re-formulate psychological theories in accordance with Marxist thinking. His theories were considered controversial during his lifetime though they became much popular decades after his untimely death at the age of 37.
Quick Facts

Nick Name: Lev Vygotsky

Also Known As: Lev Semyonovich Vygotsky

Died At Age: 37


Spouse/Ex-: Roza Noevna Smekhova

father: Simcha L. Vygotsky

mother: Celia Moiseevna Vigodskaya

siblings: Zinaida S. Vigodskaya

children: Asya Vigodskaya, Gita Vygodskaya

Born Country: Belarus

Quotes By Lev Vygotsky Psychologists

Died on: June 11, 1934

place of death: Moscow, Russia

Notable Alumni: Imperial Moscow University

Cause of Death: Tuberculosis

More Facts

education: Moscow State University, Imperial Moscow University

Childhood & Early Life
Lev Vygotsky was born on 17 November 1896 in the town of Orsha, in the Russian Empire (present-day Belarus) into a well-to-do family of Jewish ancestry. His father was a banker. His mother had trained to be a teacher but she chose not to work and considered her family to be her priority. He had seven siblings.
He grew up in the city of Gomel, Belarus, and received his primary education there. He was a good student and performed very well at school.
After graduating from secondary school he enrolled at the University of Moscow in 1913 and initially studied medicine. Later on he realized that he was more interested in legal studies and switched to law. Alongside his formal education he also continued his self-directed studies in philosophy.
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After completing his education in 1917 he returned to Gomel and embarked on a teaching career. Eventually he set up a research laboratory at the Teacher's College of Gomel.
Lev Vygotsky participated in the Second All-Russian Psychoneurological Congress in Leningrad in January 1924 where he made a presentation on the methods of reflexological and psychological investigation. His presentation was much appreciated and he was offered a position as a research fellow at the Psychological Institute of Moscow.
Thus he moved to Moscow where he lived in the basement of the Institute. His first research project in 1925 was a dissertation on the psychology of art. He always had a deep interest in the psychology of education and remediation, particularly in the education of children with learning disabilities. He went on to form the Laboratory of Psychology for Abnormal Childhood in Moscow.
He went to London in 1925 and upon his return to the Soviet Union he fell severely ill. He was suffering from tuberculosis and was hospitalized. He somehow survived the illness though he became extremely weak and invalid. He remained out of work until the end of 1926.
His essay, ‘Consciousness as a problem in the Psychology of Behavior’ was published in 1925 while ‘Educational Psychology’ was out in 1926.
After recovering from his illness he immersed himself in theoretical and methodological work on the crisis in psychology though he was not able to finish the draft of the manuscript. The manuscript would finally be published only later on, several decades after his death.
During the period 1926–30, he gathered a group of students including Alexander Luria and Alexei Leontiev and worked on a research program investigating the development of higher cognitive functions of logical memory, selective attention, decision making and language comprehension. Along with the students, he studied this phenomenon from three different angles: the instrumental angle, a developmental approach, and a cultural-historical approach.
He was a pioneering psychologist with diverse interests in the fields of developmental psychology, child development, and education. He introduced the notion of zone of proximal development—an innovative metaphor capable of describing the potential of human cognitive development—and re-interpreted well-known concepts in psychology such as, internalization of knowledge.
The early 1930s was a very difficult period for him as he experienced several personal and well as professional crises. He went through a period of massive self-criticism and began the reconstruction of his theories after realizing the numerous deficiencies in them.
During the 1930s he was heavily influenced by the holistic theories of German-American group of proponents of Gestalt psychology, most notably Kurt Goldstein and Kurt Lewin of the Gestalt movement. But most of the works he had started during his period remained unfinished as he unexpectedly died in 1934.
Major Works
In spite of his death at the young age of 37, he made major contributions to the field of psychology, especially in the areas of Human Development, Historical cultural theory, and Development of thought and language. Though considered controversial during his lifetime, his works garnered considerable interest years after his death.
Personal Life & Legacy
He was married to Rosa Smekhova, and they had two daughters.
Lev Vygotsky died of Tuberculosis on 11 June, 1934, in Moscow, Russia. He was just 37 at the time of his death

See the events in life of Lev Vygotsky in Chronological Order

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