Mária Jozefa HáriRichard Garrett George BarryRoy Gibb BluesWilliam Armstrong DavidsonDavid Charles FluckWilliam Stanley HillFausto IannottiAlan Oakley JohnWilliam Gray McEwenJohn Marcus StowersBMJ 2001; 323 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.323.7318.938 (Published 20 October 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;323:938
Mária Jozefa Hári
Former director of the Peto Institute, Budapest, Hungary (b 1923, q Budapest 1952), died on 6 October 2001 from spinal cancer. Mária Hári brought new hope to disabled people around the world through conductive education. In the late 1980s, following the BBC television documentary Standing up for Joe—the account of a young couple who travel from England to Budapest in the hope of getting their severely disabled child, Joe, admitted to the Peto Institute—she opened the doors of the institute to foreign children and their families. Even though Hungary then lay behind the Iron Curtain, more than a thousand British families and many more from other countries made the journey to Budapest to find conductive education.
Conductive education was developed by Hungarian doctor András Peto after the second world war as a way of seeking to rehabilitate children and adults with motor disorders, such as cerebral palsy, dyspraxia, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, head injuries, and stroke. Peto claimed that people with motor disabilities could be treated through normal ways of practising and learning instead of through special therapies. Mária Hári worked as a volunteer with Peto from 1945 while she was still a medical student. She stayed with him following qualification, playing a major role in formalising his approach.
In 1967 she succeeded Peto as director of his institute and completed the transformation of conductive education from a therapy to an educational system. When conductive education became the subject of international interest in the mid 1980s she adapted readily to the role of diplomat and served as trustee for the Foundation for Conductive Education in the United Kingdom.
British people will remember her as a little woman at once self effacing and completely in control. They will remember the firm, confident assertion that a disabled child or adult could …