Joseph Neef

Joseph Näef

1770 (Soultz, France) – 1854 (New Harmony, Ind.)

Neef became interested in Pestalozzi’s educational ideas while recovering from a head-wound sustained in the Napoleonic Wars (he refused to have the musket-ball removed until his death). He taught at Pestalozzi’s school in Switzerland, then opened his own in Paris, where Maclure visited and persuaded him to emigrate to America. Under Maclure’s aegis, he opened a succession of progressive schools. Neef, widely liked and respected as an outstanding teacher, seems to have had little time for Owen’s contributions to the New Harmony experiment, but his two daughters married two of Owen’s sons. An educational pioneer in the U.S., he remains under-appreciated.