Born in Clamecy, France, Edward Seguin was educated at the college of Auxerre and Saint Louis, later studying medicine and surgery under Jean-Marc-Gaspard Itard. It was Itard who influenced Seguin to devote himself to the training of mentally defective children. In 1837, Seguin, under Itard’s guidance, took his first case. Two years later, he opened the first school for idiotic children, as they were called at the time, achieving remarkable results.
Seguin immigrated to the United States in 1850 and visited schools that had been modeled on his own. He settled first in Cleveland, proceeded to Portsmouth, Ohio, then to Mount Vernon New York. In 1861 he received an M.D. from the City University of New York and from that time resided permanently in New York City. He became a member of various medical societies, held the presidency of the Association of Medical Officers of institutions for mentally disabled persons.
It had been written of Seguin that his educational system, based upon physiological constructs, sociological principles, and learning theories more generally regarded as products of the 20th century, was far in advance of its time. His work may still serve as a blueprint for current educational planning and research design in the area of mental defects.