John Amos Comenius (Jan Amos Komenský; Ján Amos Komenský; Johann Amos Comenius; Jan Amos Komeński; Comenius Ámos János; latinized: Iohannes Amos Comenius) (March 28, 1592 – November 15, 1670) was a Czech teacher, scientist, educator, and writer. He was a Unity of the Brethren/Moravian Protestant bishop, a religious refugee, and one of the earliest champions of universal education, a concept eventually set forth in his book Didactica Magna. Comenius became known as the teacher of nations. He is often considered the father of modern education.
He attended the Latinschool in Přerov, Moravia, where he returned 1614-18 as a teacher of the school. He continued his studies in Herborn (1611-13) and Heidelberg (1613-14). Comenius was greatly influenced by the Irish Jesuit William Bathe as well as his teachers Johann Piscator, Heinrich Gutberleth, and particularly Heinrich Alsted. The Herborn school held the principle that every theory has to be functional in practical use, therefore has to be didactic, ie morally instructive. Comenius had a few wrinkles on his mentors' thoughts later published in Janua linguarum reserata (1631) which may have made him and the Moravian Church especial targets of the Counter Reformation. Alternately, the work may have resulted from the pogroms which drove him and his church out of its homeland into exile, but in any event, the work led him to widespread prominence and fame while suffering exile.
Comenius became a pastor at age 24 and led the Brethren into exile when the Protestants were persecuted under the Counter Reformation. He lived and worked in many different countries in Europe, including Sweden, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Transylvania, the Holy Roman Empire, England, the Netherlands, and Royal Hungary. Comenius took refuge in Leszno in Poland, where he led the gymnasium, then moved to Sweden to work with Queen Christina and the chancellor Axel Oxenstierna. From 1642-1648 he went to Elbing (Elbląg) in Polish Royal Prussia, then to England with the aid of Samuel Hartlib, who came originally from Elbing. In 1650 Zsuzsanna Lorántffy, widow of George I Rákóczi prince of Transylvania invited him to Sárospatak. Comenius remained there until 1654 as professor in the first Hungarian Protestant college; he wrote some of his most important works there. Comenius returned to Leszno. During the Northern Wars in 1655, he declared his support for the Protestant Swedish side, for which his house, his manuscripts, and the school's printing press were burned down by Polish partisans in 1656. From there he took refuge in Amsterdam in the Netherlands, where he died in 1670. For unclear reasons he was buried in Naarden, where his grave can be visited in the mausoleum devoted to him.
One of his daughters, Elisabeth, married Peter Figulus from Jablonné nad Orlicí. Their son, Daniel Ernst Jablonski, Comenius's grandson, later went to Berlin, where he became the highest official pastor at the court of King Frederick I of Prussia. There he became acquainted with Count Nicolaus Ludwig Zinzendorf. Zinzendorf was the among the first successors to Comenius as bishop in the renewed Moravian Brethren's Church.
Comenius, his life and teachings, have become better known since the fall of the Iron Curtain. His book, Labyrinth of the World and Paradise of the Heart, is actually a reflection on his life experiences. Other works include Janua Linguarum Reserata (a new Dutch translation by CFJ Antonides is available) and Orbis Sensualium Pictus (World in Pictures) (1657), probably the most renowned and most widely circulated of school textbooks, and the Protestant Hymn songbooks (Gesangbuch).
It has been claimed that Comenius was asked to be the first President of Harvard University. He also attempted to design a language in which false statements were inexpressible.
March 28, the birthday of Comenius, is celebrated as Teachers' Day in Slovakia and in the Czech Republic.
The Comenius Medal, one of UNESCO’s most prestigious awards honouring outstanding achievements in the fields of education research and innovation, is named after him.
In 1892 Comenius Hall, the principal classroom and faculty office building on Moravian College's campus, was built. In 1892 the three-hundredth anniversary of Comenius was very widely celebrated by educators, and at that time the Comenian Society for the study and publication of his works was formed.
The education department at Salem College has an annual Comenius Symposium dedicated in his honor; the subjects usually deal with modern issues in education.
Gate to Languages, a project of lifelong education, taking place in the Czech Republic from October 2005 to June 2007 and aimed at language education of teachers, was named after his book Janua linguarum reserata (Gate to Languages Unlocked).
A primary school in Skopje, Yugoslavia is named after Comenius (Jan Amos Komenski in Macedonian). The school was built by the Czechoslovakian government after the catastrophic earthquake in 1963 that levelled most of Skopje.
There is also a Comenius Foundation in the US, a non-profit charity that uses film and documentary production to further faith, learning, and love.