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Joseph Mayer Rice (20 May 1857 - 24 June 1934) was a physician, editor of The Forum magazine, and early advocate of progressive education in the United States. He is credited with being one of the first to bring the need for widespread school reform to the public eye, and with laying the foundation for future empirical educational research.
Rice was born in Philadelphia to Bavarian immigrant parents. His father, a private tutor, was Mayer Rice; his mother was Fanny Sohn. Rice attended Philadelphia schools until the age of 13, when his family moved to New York City.
In New York, Rice graduated from high school and enrolled in the City College of New York. He received his medical degree from the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University in 1881 and established a pediatric practice in 1884. His pediatric research into the New York City public school fitness programs sparked a lifelong investment in education and children's welfare.
Rice left his medical practice in 1888 for a two-year trip to Germany. He enrolled at Leipzig University, where he delved into experimental psychology and learned the foundations of empirical research in Wilhelm Wundt's laboratory, the first of its kind. At the University of Jena, he studied at the laboratory school, where he was introduced to Herbartism, or Johann Friedrich Herbart's philosophy of character-based education.
Along with his formal studies, Rice visited dozens of schools all around Europe. He focused his visits keenly on observing pedagogy as well as the structures of the schooling system. Upon his return to the U.S. in 1890, Rice was ready to draw on his experiences in Europe and advocate for his vision of the future of American elementary education.
Rice's brother Isaac Leopold Rice was the owner of The Forum, a monthly magazine published in New York. Rice published his first Forum article in 1891, calling for better teacher training and a more "scientific" approach to education that incorporated developmental psychology as well as measurable student outcomes.
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