chapter  2
Life and early work
Pages 16

Vygotsky was born into a Jewish family in 1896 and spent most of his early life in Gomel’ in Byelorussia. He showed signs of considerable precocity while still at school and in his senior years took a leading role in a discussion group on philosophical, literary and other topics. He wrote a substantial and impressive study of Shakespeare’s Hamlet during this period (Vygotsky, 1914). His favourite philosopher was then, as later, Hegel (Vygodskaya & Lifanova, 1996). After the First World War he worked at Gomel’ Teachers’ College from 1918 to 1920, at which time he wrote most of the book Pedagogical psychology (1926c). The outlook adopted is that of reflexology, particularly that of Bekhterev, which is to say that it proposes to explain all human behaviour in terms of conditioned reflexes, similar to those that Pavlov (1897) had established in dogs and Thorndike (1902, 1911) in cats and other animals.