About Piaget

A Brief Biography of Jean Piaget

Text and images provided courtesy of the Archives Jean Piaget



Jean Piaget


Jean Piaget


Jean Piaget


Jean Piaget


Jean Piaget (1896-1980)

[just a dot]Jean 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.

[just a dot]His 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.

[just a dot]After 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.

[just a dot]After 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.

[just a dot]In 1921, he became director of studies at the J.-J. Rousseau Institute in Geneva at the request of Sir Ed. Claparède and P. Bovet.

[just a dot]In 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.

[just a dot]Successively 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.

[just a dot]His 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.

[just a dot]Piaget's 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.

Appointments, Awards, and Publications

Text provided by Les Smith


  • Born 9 August 1896, Neuchâtel, Switzerland
  • Died 16 September 1980, Geneva, Switzerland

Principal Appointments


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


Director, International 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, Sorbonne, Paris


Director, International Centre for Genetic Epistemology, Geneva


Emeritus Professor, University of Geneva

Other Appointments

  • 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 Academic Societies

Co-Editor: Archives de Psychologie and 7 other journals

Honorary Doctorates:

  • Harvard (1936)
  • Manchester (1959)
  • Cambridge (1962)
  • Bristol (1970)
  • CNAA (1975)
  • and 26 other Universities


Erasmus Prize (1972) and 11 other international prizes.

Principal Publications


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. ISBN:288288012X

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 de France.

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. Paris: Gallimard.

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, 1995

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, 191-204.

Chapman, M. (1988). Constructive evolution: origins and development of Piaget's thought. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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. London: Routledge.

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 Piaget’s 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 Piaget’s work:

Smith, L. (1997). Jean Piaget. In N. Sheehy, A. Chapman. W.Conroy (eds). Biographical dictionary of psychology. London: Routledge.

Leslie Smith
Revised August 2017

Jean Piaget Bibliography by Les Smith

Oxford Bibliographies

For more information on Piaget, try the Links Page, and the Students Page.