Helena Antipoff

Helena Antipoff was born on March 25, 1892 in the city of Grodno, located in the province of Minsk, then part of the Russian empire. She lived with her family in St. Petersburg, where her father served as an army colonel, having attended a prestigious private high school, run by Tagantseva, a respected educator in the city. During the years 1909-1910, she attended groups opposed to the Tsarist regime, and for this reason her parents decided that she should continue her studies in Paris, where she migrated with her mother in 1910. She followed studies in Psychology and Education in Paris (1910-1912) and Geneva (1912-1914). In 1917 she returned to Russia, to care for her father, who had been wounded in the 1914-1918 World War. There she married the journalist Viktor Iretzky, and had their son Daniel in 1919. The couple was exiled in Berlin in 1924, and Antipoff returned to Geneva with Daniel, at the invitation of Édouard Claparède, to be his assistant in Psychology at the Geneva University. In 1929, she accepted the invitation fofthe Minas Gerais State government, in Brazil, to direct the Psychology Laboratory of the School for the Improvement of Teachers in Belo Horizonte (one of the first psychology laboratories installed in the country) and to collaborate in the implementation of the Francisco Campos Educational Reform, inspired by the ideals of the New Education movement. She settled in Brazil from that time on and developed extensive work in the areas of psychology and education, especially in research in experimental psychology, the educational sciences, special education, rural education and the education of the gifted. In Belo Horizonte, in 1932, she founded the Pestalozzi Society, one of the first institutions in Brazil dedicated to the education and care for the so-called exceptional individuals. In 1940 the Pestalozzi Society started the implementation of the Fazenda do Rosário (Rosario Farm) educational complex in Ibirité, Minas Gerais, where several institutions were created in the areas of special education, teachers’ training for rural areas (Regional Rural Normal School and the Higher Learning Institute for Rural Education) and for the education of the gifted (Milton Campos Association for Vocational Development). Still in 1940 she founded the chair of Psychology at the Federal University of Minas Gerais. During the 1940s, she lived for a while in Rio de Janeiro, having founded the Sociedade Pestalozzi do Brasil and the Youth Orientation Center, at the Ministry of Health. In 1949 she returned to Minas Gerais, dedicating herself to teaching Psychology at the University of Minas Gerais and working on the expansion of teachers’ training activities for special education and rural education at the Rosário Farm School. Her work is respected for its pioneering social-constructivist orientation in Psychology and for the humanist and politically informed character of her initiatives.

More information about Helena Antipoff’s trajectory can be found in the Dicionário de Educadores no Brasil – Da colônia aos dias atuais (organized by Maria de Lourdes Fávero and Jader Britto, Rio de Janeiro: Editora UFRJ / MEC-INEP, 1999) and the Dicionário Biográfico da Psicologia no Brasil – Pioneiros (organized by Regina Helena F. Campos, Rio de Janeiro: Imago / Federal Council of Psychology, 2001). Russian historians Marina Sorokina and Natalia Masolikova published a biography of Helena Antipoff including her activities in Russia in the years 1892-1910 and 1917-1924 (Sorokina & Masolikova (2017) The Russian Apostle of Brazil: Psychologist Yelena Antipova,Education, 31: 18-39). Helena Antipoff’s biography is also included in the volume Portraits of Pioneers of Developmental Psychology (Edited by Wade Pickren, Donald Dewsbury and Michael Wertheimer, New York, Psychology Press, 2021, pp. 51-65 ), along side the biographies of authors such as Arnold Gesell, Charlotte Bühler, Jean Piaget, Lev Vygotsky, among others, in a testimony to the relevance and originality of her works in Psychology and Education throughout the 20th century.