Montessori, Maria (1870–1952), Italian psychiatrist and educator. The first woman to gain a medical degree in Italy (1894), she developed a system of preschool teaching, the Montessori Method, which is designed to encourage individual initiative. Children of three to six are given a wide range of materials and equipment that enables them to learn by themselves or with minimal adult intervention. There are more than 600 schools in the United States using this method.
See also: Psychiatry.