Alfred Binet was born on July 11, 1857 in Nice, France. He was the only child of a physician father and it was quite natural that Alfred intended to follow his footsteps. Unfortunately, his parents divorced when he was very young and he was raised by his mother.
In his youth, Alfred was not an extraordinarily promising youth, though he showed talent and willingness to work. After graduating from Lycee, he embarked on a career in law, but it did not suit him and he shifted to medical studies.
His entry into psychology was a mere accident. He started by reading psychological topics at the French National Library. He would read English as fluently as he would read French. He became fascinated with the theories of John Stuart Mill and Associationism. Associationism according to Mill held that the operations of intelligence were nothing more than diverse forms of the Laws of Association. Binet came to realize that Mill's theory of Association had some limitations, but never lost essence of its explanatory power.
In 1880, he published his first work. Binet accepted a position at Salpetriere Hospital in 1883, where he worked with its director, the famous neurologist and psychiatrist Jean Charcot.
Under Charcot's supervision he observed and experimented with hypnosis. Binet accepted hypnosis critically and vehemently defended the methods of his mentor Charcot. Binet began to study hypnosis, but much to the discredit of the research a great deal of subjectivity was involved.
In 1884, Binet married Laure Balbiani. He had two daughters, Madeleine and Alice, which true to the form of early explorers of the human mind, became his experimental subjects. In 1887, he was honored by French Academy of Moral and Political Sciences as Laureat, with a prize of 1000 francs, a sizeable amount in those days.
Later, Binet worked on his own on individual psychology. He developed and tried all kinds of tests and puzzles with his two daughters - Madeleine and Alice. It was through such research study on his daughters, that he began to discover the importance of attention span on the development of adult intelligence
All through this time he was very active, in writing research papers, articles on his experiments at Salpetriere, and with his private ideas and musings. He also worked with his father-in-law who lectured on heredity. During this period he wrote on Free Will versus Determinism and also studied the psychology of Law. Later, on Theodule Ribot's advice, (an eminent French psychologist 1835-1916), he studied psychopathology.
By 1890, Binet had broken off his connections with the Salpetriere, and started a study of cognitive processes. For this study he used his daughters as subjects.
In 1891, Binet accidentally met Dr. Henri Beaunis on a railway platform, and asked him for a job at the Sorbonne. After some heated arguments on hypnosis, Dr. Beaunis agreed to give him some work at the research laboratory at Sorbonne. Binet was hardworking and his productivity during this period was quite admirable. By 1894, he became the director of the laboratory.