Vygotsky, Lev


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Lev Vygotsky (1896- 1934), one of the significant post-revolutionary Soviet psychologists, was born in 1896 in Orsha, a town near Minsk. Between 1913 and 1917 he studied law, history and philosophy at Moscow University and the Shanjavsky People's University. He completed his university studies in 1917. From 1918-1924 he taught literature and psychology at various institutes, including the Soviet Labour School and the Gomel Teacher College. It was in the Gomel Teacher College that Vygotsky established a small psychological laboratory where his students conducted simple practical investigations. It was in this laboratory that he first performed his own experiments on dominant reactions and respiration. His shift in interest in to the problems of psychology, education and paedology was a gradual one, but recognition of his work prompted an invitation to join Kornilov's Institute of Experimental Psychology in Moscow. Here he conducted research, lectured, and published until he died of tuberculosis in 1934.
Vygotsky's work was inspired by literary scholarship, psychoanalysis, Gestalt Psychology and paedology. In his cultural-historical theory he wrote of the cultural and social construction of the human mind. As Van der Veer and Valsiner explain: he attempted to sketch how cultural man attempts to overcome the 'stikhia', the elemental chaos of nature, through the creation of cultural instruments. Deeply appreciating the finest artefacts of culture Vygotsky persisted in believing that the 'stikhia' would be overcome by culture and that a new human society would be its result.' (page 17)