Rudolf Steiner Biography

Academic, Journalist, Educator, Philosopher (1861–1925)
A popular lecturer in his day, Rudolf Steiner created the philosophy of anthroposophy and stressed the importance of creativity in children's education.


Born on February 27, 1861, Rudolf Steiner worked as an editor on the scientific papers of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe before originating the philosophy of anthroposophy, which attempts to synthesize science and mysticism. In 1919, Steiner started his first school; today hundreds of schools around the world continue to draw inspiration from his ideas on education. Steiner died on March 30, 1925.

Early Life and Work

Born on February 27, 1861, in what is now Donji Kraljevec, Croatia, Rudolf Joseph Lorenz Steiner became an influential philosopher and educator. Steiner attended school in Austria and was a student at the Vienna University of Technology.

In the late 1880s, Steiner started editing the scientific papers of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, a project that would last for years. While working on Goethe's writings, Steiner produced works of his own, including The Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe's World Conception (1886) and The Philosophy of Freedom (1894).

By 1900, Steiner's interest in spiritual development had led to his involvement in the German Theosophical Society. In 1912, Steiner stepped away from theosophy to set up the Anthroposophical Society.

Philosophical Thinker

Anthroposophy was Rudolf Steiner's own philosophy, which postulated that heightened consciousness would allow mankind access to spiritual knowledge. Steiner began construction of the first version of his Goetheanum, a structure he designed as a center for anthroposophical studies, in 1913 in Dornach, Switzerland.

Steiner's philosophical interests touched on many different aspects of life, from the arts to creating supportive environments for people with disabilities. He is also credited with developing some of the principles of what is now known as biodynamic farming.

Educational Philosophy

In 1919, Steiner established a school for the children of workers at the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory in Stuttgart, Germany. Steiner's educational philosophy encouraged teachers to focus on the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of each student. He also emphasized the importance of creativity in learning.

Steiner's educational approach came to be adopted by many others. Today, there still are hundreds of schools worldwide using Steiner's methods.

Later Years

During his final years, Steiner was criticized by rising political figure Adolf Hitler and plagued by ill health. On March 30, 1925, Steiner died at the age of 64 in Dornach, Switzerland.

In the 1930s, the socialist government banned Steiner’s books, the German Anthroposophical Society was prohibited and by 1941, the Nazis closed all of Steiner’s Waldorf schools.

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